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GREEK

MYTHOLOGY
AND POETICS

GREGORY NAGY

GREEK
MYTHOLOGY
AND POETICS
Gregory N

agy

CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS


ITHACA AND LONDON

T h l s

O n e

PXFC-3 DZ- DPFP

Copyright 1990 by Cornell University

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or
parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in
writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University
Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850.
First published 1990 by Cornell University Press.
Second printing 1992.
First printing, Cornell Paperbacks, 1992.
Second printing 1996.
International Standard Book Number
International Standard Book Number 0-8014-8048-5 (paper)
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 89-17447
Printed in the United States of America
Librarians: Library o f Congress cataloging inform ation
appears on the last page o f the book.

The paper in this book meets the minimum requirements of the


American National Standard for Information SciencesPermanence of
Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.

Contents

Foreword_________________________________________________vii
X
Acknowledgments
1
Introduction
PART I. The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics
7
18
36

1 Homer and Comparative Mythology


2 Formula and Meter: The Oral Poetics of Homer
3 Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism
PART II.

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual


85

4 Patroklos, Concepts of Afterlife, and the Indie Triple Fire


5 The Death of Sarpedon and the Question of Homeric
Uniqueness
6 The King and the Hearth: Six Studies of Sacral Vocabulary
Relating to the Fireplace

143

7 T h u n d e r and the Rirfh o f H u m ankind

181

122

8 Serna and Noesis: The Heros Tomb and the Reading


of Symbols in Homer and Hesiod
9 Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon, and the White Rock of Leukas:
Reading the Symbols of Greek Lyric

202
223
263

10 On the Death of Actaeon


PART III.

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

11 Poetry and the Ideology of the Polis: The Symbolism of


Apportioning Meat

269
v

vi

Contents

12 Mythical Foundations of Greek Society and the Concept <


of the City-State
13 Unattainable Wishes: The Restricted Range of an Idiom
in Epic Diction

276
294

Bibliography
General Index

303
329

Index of Scholars______________________________________

360

Foreword

Greek Mythology and Poetics is the second book in the Myth and Poetics
series. My goal, as series editor, is to encourage work that will help
integrate literary criticism with the approaches of anthropology and that
will pay special attention to problems concerning the nexus of ritual and
myth.
For such an undertaking, we may look to the comparative testimony
of relatively complex societies, such as the Ndembu of Zambia, and also
of the very smallest, such as the Yukuna of the Colombian Amazon.1Just
as important, we must pursue the varied testimonies of the most
stratified societies, including those which go under the general heading
Western civilization. It is precisely here that the meaning of myth is
the most misleadingand challenging. In a small-scale society myth
tends to be viewed as the encoding of that societys concept of truth; at
the same time, from the viewpoint of Western civilization, myth has
become the opposite of fact, the antithesis of truth.2
Since the ancient Greek concept of politeid serves as the foundation
for the very word civilization and for our concept of Western civiliza
tion, more than one of the books in this series will deal primarily with
ancient Greece and the ancient Greek city-state, or polis. The testimony
of the Greeks is particularly instructive with regard to our central con
cern, the relationship between ritual and myth. The very word myth,"
*V. Turner, The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca, N.Y., 1967), and P.-Y.
Jacopin, La parole generative: De la Mythologie des Indiens Yukuna (diss.t University of
Neuchacel, 1981).
2Scc especially M. Detienne, L'invenon de la Mythologie (Paris, 1981), and my review in
Annates: Economies Sodetes Civilisations 37 (1982) 778-780.
Ml

viii

Foreword

as derived from Greek muthos, is a case in point: the meaning of this


word brings to life, in microcosm, the reladonship between myth and
ritual in ancient Greek society.
In order to grasp the special meaning of Greek muthos, let us consider
the distinction between marked and unmarked speech (in the terminology
of Prague School linguistics). We find that marked speech occurs as a
rule in ritual contexts, as we can observe most clearly in the least com
plex or smallest-scale societies. It is in such societies also that we can
observe most clearly the symbiosis of ritual and myth, and the ways in
which the language of ritual and myth is marked, whereas everyday
language is unmarked. The Greek language gives us an example of
these semantics: mu means I have my eyes closed" or T have my
mouth closed" in everyday situations, but I see in a special way" or I say
in a special way" in ritual. Hence mstes is one who is initiated and
musterion is that into which one is initiated, mystery (Latin mysterium)."
Hence also muthos, myth": this word, it has been argued, is a derivative
of mud and had at an earlier stage meant special" as opposed to every
day" speech.
A later Classical example of such early patterns of thought occurs in
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 1641-1644: the visualization and the ver
balization of what happened to Oedipus in the precinct of the Eumenides at Colonus are restricted, in that the precise location of his
corpse is a sacred secret (1545-1546, 1761-1763). Only Theseus, by vir
tue of being the proto-priest for the Athenians of the here-and-now, is to
witness what happened, which is called the dromena (1644). This word is
what Jane Harrison used to designate ritual in her formulation: myth
is the plot of the dromenon. Thus the visualization and the verbalization
of the myth, what happened to Oedipus, are restricted to the sacred
context of ritual, controlled by the heritage of priestly authority from
Theseus, culture-hero of the Athenian democracy.
From an anthropological point of view, myth is indeed special
speech in that it is a means by which society affirms its own reality. Such
a thought pattern is pertinent to the theories of J. L. Austin and J. R.
Searle concerning the performative aspects of language. A speech-act,
according to Austin and Searle, entails a situation in which the word is
the action; the antithesis of word and action is neutralized. Here we may
invoke Barbara Johnsons application of Austins notion of speech-act to
poetryan application that Austin himself resisted. We may go also one
step further, with the help of Richard Martins Language of Heroes, the
first book in Myth and Poetics.3 Martin applies the notion of speech-act
3 R. P. Martin, The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad (Ithaca, N.Y.,
1989).

Foreword

ix

to the oral performance of oral poetry, the dynamics of which have been
made well known through the pathfinding works of Milman Parry and
Albert Lord. As Martin argues, the mthos is not just any speech-act
reported by poetry: it is also the speech-act of poetry itself.
Viewed in this light, myth implies ritual in the very performance of
myth. And that performance is the essence of poetics.
G regory N agy

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Acknowledgments

I thank the Classics Department of Harvard University for the alloca


tion of a subsidy that has helped make this book more affordable. At an
early stage of the project, Lenore Savage, with her expertise at the key
board, navigated through vast stretches of unwieldy text. The final
printed version was achieved by Gary Bisbee, master compositor and
scholar.
I wish to record my deep gratitude to all those who gave me advice at
various stages in the evolution of this book. Special thanks go to Victor
Bers, Deborah Boedeker, Martha Cowan, Gregory Crane, Olga Davidson,
Marian Demos, Scott Ettinger, Thomas J. Figueira, Douglas Frame, John
Hamilton, Leonard Muellner, Blaise Nagy, Joseph Nagy, Jogesh Panda,
Dan Petegorsky, Dale Sinos, Laura Slatkin, Roger Travis, Brent Vine,
Calvert Watkins, Michael Witzel.
I offer special thanks to John Peradotto, editor of Arethusa. It was he
who provided the original occasions for the essays rewritten as Chapters
4 and 8 in this book.
Finally, I dedicate this book to my genial daughter, Antonia, whose
radiant company has been for me a priceless treasure.
G. N.

GREEK MYTHOLOGY
AND POETICS

Introduction

This book concentrates on what ancient Greek society inherited


through its language, described by linguists as belonging to the IndoEuropean language family. The span of time covered is roughly between
the eighth and the fifth centuries B.C. My emphasis on the language of
the Greeks, calling for comparison with the testimony of related IndoEuropean languages including Latin, Indie, and Hittite, reflects my
long-standing interest in Indo-European linguistics, a discipline that has
in the past been successfully applied to the systematic study of society in
such pioneering works as Emile Benvenistes Le voeabulaire des institutions
indo-europeennes.1 This discipline of Indo-European linguistics aims to
reconstruct, from various related Indo-European languages, a proto
language once described as M
a glorious artifact, one which is far more
precious than anything an archaeologist can ever hope to unearth.2 To
put it in more modest terms: the attempt to reconstruct a proto
language translates into an attempt to recover various patterns in society
as articulated by language. Throughout the pages that follow, the pri
mary aim is to examine the Greek language, by way of comparison with
cognate languages, as a reflection of Greek society, with special attention
to the function of language as a vehicle of mythology and poetics.
The emphasis of this book, however, is not on the Indo-European her
itage of the Greek language. Rather, it is on the forces that transformed
this Indo-European heritage into a distinctly Greek heritage; let us call it
Hellenism. As for the process of transformation, let us call it
1 Benveniste 1969.
2 Haas 1969.34; cf. Watkins 1969.xx. 1973b.

Introduction

Hellenization. Hence the titles of the three parts into which the book is
divided:
I: The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics
II: The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual
III: The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology
The use of such terms as poetics, myth, ritual, and social ideol
ogy will be brought into sharper focus as the discussion proceeds, but
another question of meaning must be addressed at the very start. The
term Indo-European" will never be used here as any sort of racial or eth
nic classification: to say that something is Indo-European is merely to
reconstruct an aspect of that thing by way of comparing cognate languages,
inasmuch as language is a reflection of society and its institutions.3
In the case of ancient Greek society and the same goes for the
Romans and the Hittites and so on it is misleading to speak of it as
Indo-European just because comparative linguistics has established
that the Greek language is predominantly Indo-European in nature.
Still, the story of Hellenization can be at least partly retold in the history
of an Indo-European language that has settled into a Mediterranean
setting.

In the historical context of the ancient Greeks, the Indo-European


heritage of their language can be expected to elucidate some, though
hardly all, the inherited institutions of their society. Other institutions
will have been inherited from layers of language speakers that preceded
the Indo-European layer. Still others will have been borrowed at dif
ferent times from different societies. One thing is sure: all Greek social
institutions, whatever their provenience, will have continued to interact
and change in the course of history. That process of interaction and
change I am describing as Hellenization. In this book, the distinctive
Hellenism or Greekness of Hellenization is the decisive empirical
given.4
It follows that there can be no such thing as a controlling IndoEuropean model for the Greek heritage of mythology and poetics. In
particular, the influence of the Near East is pervasive in the ongoing pro
cess of Hellenization. In the poetics of Sappho, for example, as we shall
see in Chapter 9, the Indo-European myths about the Morning Star and
Evening Star have merged with the Near Eastern myths about the Planet
3 Here again I look to the demarche of Benveniste 1969.
4 I stress the distinctness or otherness" of Hellenism, not its perceived affinities with
Western Civilization." Such perceptions lead to the impulse of Orientalism ," as dissected
by Said 1978.

Introduction

Istar, known to the Greeks as the Planet Aphrodite, and to us as the


Planet Venus.
A particularly valuable contribution to the issue of cultural interaction
in ancient Greece is the work of Walter Burkert, who has consistently
mined the vast testimony of the Near East for valuable parallelisms with
various Greek institutions that have long defied our understanding.5 For
example, he can show that the various myths and rituals of the Greeks
connected with the goddess Demeter are closely matched by the patterns
inherent in the Hittite Telepinu- and the Mesopotamian Inanna/Istar
figures.67*Call it Urvdebnis or archetype, the fact is that in this particular
case Burkert finds no other closely corresponding figures as he surveys
other cultures of the world in search of further matches. It is difficult,
then, to resist the conclusion that we are dealing here with some sort of
contact or borrowing; further analysis of such parallelisms may benefit
from techniques of investigation that have been employed by linguists in
studying the phenomenon known as Sprachbund?
Mention of the myths and rituals connected with the goddess Deme
ter brings us to a major problem in the history of classical scholarship,
where studies of myth and ritual have tended to be segregated. For
example, the longtime standard work on Greek religion, Martin
Nilssons reliable Handbuch,* studiously avoids any consideration of myth
as it relates to ritual, with the one notable exception being the myths of
Demeter, which even Nilsson cannot divorce from the corresponding
rituals.9 In Chapter 1 ,1 offer working definitions of myth and ritual. For
now, however, I stress only the methodological need to treat them as
interrelated phenomena in society, along the lines of Burkerts hand
book, Greek Religion.10
5 Cf. Burkert 1984 on the era stretching between roughly 900 and 600 B.C.
6 Cf. e g. Burkert 1979a. 139.
7Jakobson 1931. In the work of Burkert 1984,1 note in particular the emphasis on the
role of itinerant artisans, who are described as demiourgoi artisans in the community
(drmosr at Odyssey xvii 381-385. (On demos administrative district, population in archaic
Greek poetic diction in the sense of local community', with reference to a given locale's
own traditions, customs, laws, and the like, see N 1979a. 149 1 ln6; also Don Ian 1970.) The
professions listed in that passage are the aoidos singer, poet, the mantis seer, the ieter
physician, and the (Aten carpenter; elsewhere, the term demiourgos applies to the kerux
herald {Odyssey xix 135), and we may compare other passages where the aoidos is juxta
posed trith the tihUm and the kerameiis potter (Hesiod Works and Days 25-26). Such a class
of artisans was socially mobile not only within the Greek-speaking area (on which see
further at N pp. 233-234) but also far beyond, and we must also take into account the pos
sibilities o f interchangeability between Greek and non-Greek artisans.
"Nilsson 1967/1974.
9 Discussion in Burkert 1979a. 138.
10 Burkert 1985.

Introduction

To grasp the essence of Greek religion, I suggest, is to understand the


relationship between myth and ritual in the historical context of ancient
Greece.11 Moreover, it is at times impossible to achieve an understanding
of a given myth without taking into account a corresponding ritual, or
the other way around: in the myths and rituals of Adonis, for example,
we can see clearly that the factor of sacrifice in ritual corresponds to the
factor of catastrophe in myth, and that uplay acting the catastrophe of
Adonis in sacrifice is supposed to avert catastrophe for the sacrifice.12
The relationship of myth to ritual can have a direct bearing on poet
ics. In the myth of the Divine Twins, for example, the rituals connected
with these figures are a key to understanding not only the historical set
ting of the dual kingship at Sparta but also the poetics of Aleman PMG 7,
concerning the alternating koma of the Twins, their death-sleep. In the
case of the Adonis myth, for another example, the connections of this
figure with rituals of mourning are pertinent to a general anthropologi
cal assessment of mourning as demonstrative self-humiliation and selfaggression.13 Further, these connections are pertinent to the poetics of
Sappho, where the explicit theme of mourning for Adonis may be con
nected with the implicit theme of Sapphos self-identification with
Aphrodite.14 In this context, we may note Burkerts observation that the
standard mythmaking sequence, as formulated by Vladimir Propp, of a
successful quest ending in marriage finds its inverse in Sapphos poetry
as the disquieting and Adonic sequence of loves abrupdy ending in
failure.15
Some of the essays collected in this book took shape some years ago,
the one on Sappho as early as 1973 (recast as Chapter 9). Another of
the essays appeared recently, in 1987 (recast as Chapter 12). For this
reason and for the purposes of the ensemble in general, there has had to
be a great deal of reorganization and rewriting. New references to addi
tional secondary sources, however, have been kept to a minimum. Such
new references as there sure tend to concentrate on those works that had
a role in reshaping various specific lines of argumentation. There are
undoubtedly many other works that should have played a role, but some
of these have been saved for future reference in altogether new projects
to be undertaken.16
11 crucial work in this regard: Burkert 1970.
12 a . Burkert 1979a. 121.
15 Burkert 1979a.99-122, esp. p. 121. A definitive work on the Greek institutions of
mourning: Alexiou 1974.
14 See pp. 259ff.
15 Burkert 1979a.l21-122.
16 Notable examples: Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1984, Witzel 1984.

Introduction

The frequent cross-references to the author's other publications, most


of which represent later work, are intended as a continuation and rein
forcement of the arguments here presented, not as empty selfadvertisement. With the publication of Greek Mythology and Poetics, in
combination with the books published in 1974, 1979, 1985 (with T. J.
Figueira), and 1990 (Pindars Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past),
as listed in the Bibliography, all of the authors major works from 1973
to date have become easily available.

PART I

THE HELLENIZATION
OF INDO-EUROPEAN
POETICS

CHAPTER

Homer and
Comparative Mythology

Still under the spell of Heinrich Schliemanns rediscovery of Troy,


students of ancient Greece have been accustomed to regard the Greek
epic tradition of Homer as a reporting of events that really happened in
the second millennium B.C., the Mycenaean Bronze Age.1This view must
be modified by the perspective of comparative mythology, as most clearly
articulated in a three-volume series, Mythe et epopee, by Georges Dumezil.2*
This perspective takes the methodology of Indo-European linguistics
beyond the level of pure language and applies it on the level of myth as
expressed by language. In this sense, it is appropriate to think of com
parative mythology, more broadly, as comparative philology:
One of the services that comparative philology can render the separate
philologies" [as, for example, Classical philology] is to protect them
against their own unchecked attitudes concerning origins, to orient them
toward the kind of empirical process, positive or negative, that goes
beyond the uncertainty and consequent arbitrariness that can result from
evaluating facts purely from a Greek or Roman or Indie or Scandinavian
point of view.*

Just as the Greek language is cognate with other Indo-European


languages, including Latin, Indie, and Old Norse, so also various Greek
institutions are cognate with the corresponding institutions of other peo
ples speaking other Indo-European languages. In other words, such
1A notable example is Page 1959.
* Dumizil 1968,1971,1973.
9 Dumezil 1985.15 (my translation).

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

diverse groups as the ancient Greek and Indie peoples have a common
Indo-European heritage not only on the level of language but also on the
level of society. To appreciate the breadth and the depth of this IndoEuropean heritage in Greek institutions, one has only to read through
the prodigious collection of detailed evidence assembled by Emile Benveniste in Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-europeennes.4 For now, how
ever, we shall concentrate on Dumezils argument that one such IndoEuropean institution is the tradition of epic as reflected, for example, in
the Indie Mahbhrata. The comparative approach, as we shall see, gives
a vision of epic that is signifleandy different from the picture emerging
from a "separatist approach that restricts the field of vision to Homeric
standards.
What comparative philology teaches us is that epic is a reflection not
so much of historical events as of myth. According to this scheme, epic
allows myth to take precedence over reality as we know it. Even where
epic utilizes the raw material of real events, the argument goes, it will
reshape these events to accommodate the requirements of myth.
This insight from comparative mythology concerning myth is a far cry
from our own contemporary usage of the word myth," which conveys
the opposite of reality. Myth, in societies where it exists as a living tradi
tion, must not be confused with Action, which is a matter of individual
and personal creativity. Rather, myth represents a collective expression
of society, an expression that society itself deems to be true and valid.
From the standpoint of the given society that it articulates, myth is the
primary reality.5 For the purposes of the present argument, then, myth
can be defined as a traditional narrative that is used as a designation of
reality. Myth is applied narrative. Myth describes a meaningful and
important reality that applies to the aggregate, going beyond the indivi
dual."6
The links between myth and epic are explored from another angle in
the researches of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on the nature of tradi
tional oral epic poetry.7 From their fieldwork in the living South Slavic
oral poetic traditions, we can witness direedy how the composition and
performance of epic are aspects of the same process, how myth is
literally re-created in each new performance, and how there can be
4 Benveniste 1969.
5 Cf. N 1982b, reviewing Detienne 1981, and Martin 1989. On the truth-value of myth:
I .each 1982.2-7.
6 My translation, with slight modifications, of Burkert 1979b.29. Although I recognize
the need for the additional term 'legend, besides myth," in the work of others, 1 find it
unnecessary for the purposes of this book.
7 The basics: Parry 1971 (collected works) and Lord 1960.

Homer and Comparative Mythology

countless variations in tradition without any deviation from tradition


itself. Parry and Lord have successfully applied to the Homeric Iliad and
Odyssey the criteria that they developed from their experience in field
work, and their demonstration that these marvels of Western literature
are composed in the traditions of oral poetry may further justify applying
the criteria that Dumezil has developed from his experience in the sys
tematic comparison of surviving epic texts.8 As we can ascertain indepen
dently with Parry and Lord, Homer is a master of mythe et epopee.
There are serious problems, however, in connecting the epic tradi
tions of ancient Greece with those of other societies belonging to the
Indo-European language family. Dumezil himself gives the clearest
account of these problems, which can be summarized as follows:9
(1) generally, it is difficult to connect the narrative of the Homeric
poems with the basic patterns of Indo-European society as recon
structed from comparable narratives in languages related to Greek;
(2) specifically, the themes associated with the major Homeric
heroes seem not to match the themes associated with godsat
least, they do not match as they do, for example, in the clearly
Indo-European epic traditions of the Indie Mahbhrata.10
A solution to these problems may be found in archaeologynot in
the evidence of the second millennium B.C., the represented era of the
Homeric heroes, but in the evidence of the eighth century B.C., the era
of the incipient Homeric audience. Whereas the archaeology of the
second millennium has encouraged students of Hellas to concentrate on
the historical realities found in Greek epic, the archaeology of the eighth
centuiy may lead them to perceive the mythmaking framework that
integrates these realities.
A 1971 book by Anthony Snodgrass, The Dark Age of Greece, has made it
plain that the eighth century B.C., the era in which the Iliad and Odyssey
were reaching their ultimate form, is as important for our understanding
of Homeric poetry as is the late second millennium B.C., the era that pro
vides the overt subject matter for both of these epics.11 Granted,
Homeric poetry draws on details that archaeologists can indeed assign to
the late second millennium.12 But the point is that it also reflects the
8 Cf. also Martin 1989.1-42.
9 Dumezil 1968.580-581; cf. also 1982.8.52, 112-113
10 Throughout this book, I use the word "theme (and "thematic") as a shorthand refer
ence to a basic unit in the traditional subject patterns of myth. My model for a sensible deploy
ment of this word is Lord 1960.68-98.
11 Snodgrass 1971 (see esp. pp. 421,435; also pp. 352, 376,416-417,421,431).
** Again, Page 1959.

10

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

overall orientation of the eighth century, which is a watershed for the


evolution of Hellenic civilization as we know it: in this era, alongside the
phenomenon of the polis city-state, the heir to localized traditions in
cult, law, and so on, there emerged a complementary phenomenon of
pan-Hellenism, formalized in such institutions as the Olympic Games,
the Delphic Oracle, and the Homeric poems themselves.15
In fact, Homeric poetry is a formalization of both these phenomena:
it synthesizes the diverse local traditions of each major city-state into a
unified pan-Hellenic model that suits the ideology of the polis in gen
eral, but without being restricted to the ideology of any one polis in par
ticular.14 Perhaps the clearest example is the Homeric concept of the
Olympian gods, which incorporates yet goes beyond the localized reli
gious traditions of each polis; the pan-Hellenic perspective of Homeric
poetry has transcended local phenomena such as the cult of gods, which
is functional only on the local level of the polis.15 By cult I mean a set
of practices combining elements of ritual as well as myth. For a working
definition of ritual, I choose the following formulation: Ritual, in its
outward aspect, is a programme of demonstrative acts to be performed
in set sequence and often at a set place and timesacred insofar as every
omission or deviation arouses deep anxiety and calls forth sanctions. As
communication and social imprinting, ritual establishes and secures the
solidarity of the closed group.16 The insistence of ritual on a set order
of things should not be misunderstood to mean that all rituals are static
and that all aspects of rituals are rigid. Even in cases where a given
society deems a given ritual to be static and never changing, it may in
fact be dynamic and ever changing, responding to the ever-changing
structure of the society that it articulates.
Besides the cult of gods, another example of interplay between polis
and pan-Hellenism in Homeric poetry is its attitude toward the cult of
heroes. Erwin Rohdes monumental book Psyche remains one of the
most eloquent sources for our understanding the hers hero as a very
old and distinct concept of traditional Greek religion, requiring ritual
practices that were distinct from those associated with the gods.17 What
archaeology now tells us is that this Hellenic institution of hero cults,
without much difference from what we see attested in the Classical
period of the fifth century, is shaped in the eighth century B.C., the same
15 Snodgrass 1971.421, 435. Hereafter, the word polis will appear in plain roman print:
polis.
MCT. N 1979a.ll5-117.
15 Rohde 1898.1:125-127.
16 Burkert 1985.8.
17 Rohde 1898; for a survey of Rohdes treatment of hero cults, see N 1979a.l 15-117.

Homer and Comparative Mythology

11

era that shaped the Iliad and Odyssey.]HIt is of course tempting to explain
the upsurge of hero cults throughout the city-states as a phenomenon
motivated by the contemporaneous diffusion of Homeric poetry,1819 but it
would be better to follow Snodgrass in looking for a more comprehen
sive explanation.20 Again, the key is the twin eighth-century phenomena
of the polis on one hand and pan-Hellenism on the other. I cite
Rohdes thesis that the cult of heroes was a highly evolved transformation
of the worship of ancestorsa transformation that took place within the
social context of the polis.21 This thesis, perhaps most appealing from
the viewpoint of cultural anthropology,2223allows room for considering
the constituent elements of hero cults to go back far beyond the eighth
century.25 In other words, we can posit a lengthy prehistory for not only
the epics of heroes but also the cults of heroes, with this qualification:
the ultimate forms of the epics and of the cults were definitively shaped
in the eighth century. The strong eighth-century upsurge in the local
cults of heroes can thus be viewed as a phenomenon parallel torather
than derivative fromthe pan-Hellenic epics of heroes, namely, the Iliad
and Odyssey.
Thus the ideological heritage of Greek heroes may still in principle be
reconstructed as Indo-European in character. But there are problems in
extracting comparative evidence about the hero from Greek epic, espe
cially about the religious dimension of the hero. It is worth stressing
that the hero as a figure of cult must be local because it is a fundamental
principle in Greek religion that his supernatural power is local.24 On the
other hand, the hero as a figure of epic is pan-Hellenic and consequently
cannot have an overtly religious dimension in the narrative. Still, we may
expect to find at least latent traces of this religious dimension within the
Homeric poems. I have in fact produced a book with this expectation in
mind.25 Even further, it can be argued that these latent traces have cog
nates in the comparative evidence of other Indo-European epic tradi
tions.
Both the Iliad and the Odyssey reveal a pervasive theme that implicitly
tells of a heros parallelism, not only in character but also in action, with
a corresponding god. This theme is particularly manifest in the case of
18 Snodgrass 1970.190-193. Cf. Snodgrass 1987, esp. pp. 160, 165.
19 a . Coldstream 1976.
20 Snodgrass 1971.398-399; also Snodgrass 1987, esp. pp. 160, 165, and Morris
1988.754-755. For a reappraisal, stressing regional variations, see Whitley 1988.
21 Rohde 1898.1:108-110.
22 Cf. Brelich 1958.144n202 and Alexiou 1974.19.
23 Cf. again Snodgrass 1971.398-399.
24 Rohde 1:184-189.
25 N 1979a. a . also Vernant 1985.101,104, 106.

12

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

Achilles and Apollo in the Ilia d . For example, both the hero and the
god have m en is 'anger (I 1/1 75) that inflicts dlgea pains (I 2/1 96) so
as to be a loigps devastation for the Achaeans (I 341 / I 97).26 Moreover,
the hero and the god are traditionally represented as look-alikes, for
example both appearing unshorn in the manner of a kouros uninitiated
male. Their physical parallelism has led Walter Burkert to describe
Achilles as a D oppelgn ger of Apollo.27 We see here a remarkable ana
logue to the five epic heroes known as the P d n d a v a * in the Indie
M a h b h ra ta , heroes whose parallelism with corresponding gods
(Dharma, Vyu, Indra, and the two Asvin-s) has been traced in detail by
Dumezil.28
In Greek epic there is a consistent pattern of mutual antagonism
between a god and the hero who is parallel to him. Moreover, this pat
tern of antagonism on the level of myth is matched by a pattern of sym
biosis on the level of cult.29 As a case in point, I cite the relationship of
Apollo with Pyrrhos/Neoptolemos, son of Achilles: this hero is killed by
the god himself within his own divine precinct (e.g. Pindar P a ea n
6.117-120), the very place where Pyrrhos/Neoptolemos is believed to be
buried and where he is worshiped as the chief cult hero of Delphi (e.g.
Pindar N em ean 7.4447).50 This and many other similar themes of godhero antagonism suit an Indo-European pattern documented by
Dumezil, who links the story patterns of the Old Norse hero StarkaSr,
the Indie hero Sisupla, and the Greek hero Herakles. With the myth of
Herakles, Dumezil himself has admirably demonstrated that the IndoEuropean pattem of god-hero antagonism is indeed attested in the
realm of Greek myth. What I would add here is that this same pattem is
central to the narrative traditions of Greek epic in particular, as
exemplified in the I lia d and O dyssey*1 In fact, the compressed retelling
of the Herakles story in I lia d XIX 95-133 is a clear attestation of the
same Indo-European pattern that Dumezil has reconstructed from such
nonpoetic retellings as in Diodorus Siculus (4.8-39).32
The claim can be made, then, that the themes associated with the
major Homeric heroes do indeed match the themes associated with
16 Further discussion in N 1979a ch.5.
27 Burkert 1975.19; cf. N 1979a.142-143.
28 Dumezil 1968.33-257.
a . Burkert 1975.19;cf. N 1979ach.7.
C f.N 1979a ch.7.
31 On the antagonism of Achilles and Apollo, I refer again to N 1979a ch.7; on the anta
gonism between Odysseus and Poseidon, see Hansen 1977. It is fitting that a complex
figure like Odysseus should have more than one divine antagonist. On the implicit anta
gonism between Odysseus and Athena, see Clay 1984.
32 See Davidson 1980.

Homer and Comparative Mythology

13

gods, and that Dumezils doubts about the applicability of his reconstruc
tions to Greek epics can in the end be dispelled. Moreover, since the
Greek evidence shows parallelisms of god and hero attested even on the
level of cult, Dumezils vision of epic as structured by myth may even be
extended one level further: from epic to myth to rituaL
There is a striking attestation of all three levels in the Homeric Hymn to
Herakles (Hymn 15), which can be described as a brief and stylized prayer
in worship of the hero Herakles, invoked as the son of Zeus (verses 1 and
9) and implored to grant success and wealth (9). Within this prayer
Herakles is described as dristos best among the epikhthonioi earth-bound
men of Thebes (1-2), and each of these words conjures up a specific
heroic theme. Considering epikhthonioi first, we note that this word can
mean more than earth-bound men pure and simple: it is also attested
in the context of designating heroes as worshiped in cult (e.g. Hesiod
Works and Days 123).33 As for dristos best, it serves as a formal measure
of a given heros supremacy in his own epic tradition, as we see from the
deployment of the expression dristos Akhaion best of the Achaeans in
the Homeric poems: the Iliad and the Odyssey each appropriate this
epithet to fit the central figures Achilles and Odysseus, respectively.34
There are other epic touches as well in Homeric Hymn 15, as for exam
ple in these verses describing the Labors of the hero Herakles:

, *
Homeric Hymn to Herakles

15.5-6

Set off-course on missions at the direction of Eurystheus the king,


many are the reckless [atdsthala] things that he did, many the things that
he endured.

Let us compare the verses beginning the Odyssey.



, .
,
. . .
Odyssey i

About the man sing to me, Muse, the one of many turns
33N 1979a. 153-154. Cf. also Vemant 1985.101,104,106.
34 N 1979a ch.2.

1-4

[polu-tropos],

the

14

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics


one who many times
was set off-course after he destroyed the holy citadel of Troy.
Many are the men whose cities he saw, and he came to know their way of
thinking,
and many are the pains that he suffered at sea.

In the Hymn to Herakles, the anaphora of ... many things


. . . many things at verse 6 in the context of set off-course*
at verse 5 is parallel to the anaphora of ... /
.../ the one of many turns . . . many/ many . . . / many at
Odyssey i 1 /3 /4 in the context of was set off course at i 2.
Further, the expression ... he endured many things at
Hymn 15.6 describing Herakles is parallel to ... he
suffered many pains at Odyssey i 4 describing Odysseus, while the
reckless deeds of Herakles at Hymn 15.6 correspond to the
characterization of Achilles in his own dark moments of savagery as
(e.g. XXII 418).3536
The study of the diction in Hymn 15 could be taken much further, but
the point has already been made: this composition is not only a func
tional prayer to a hero in his capacity as a cult figure but also a
glorification of his epic attributesthe very same epic attributes that

seem to be divided up between Achilles and Odysseus in the overall epic


diction of the Iliad and Odyssey.96
It is as if the epic figures of Achilles and Odysseus resulted from a split
of characterizations that we can find in one heroic figure, Herakles. In
light of Dumezils work on Herakles in Mythe et epopee II,37 we see that
Herakles is in fact far closer to an Indo-European model of the hero
than is either Achilles or Odysseus. We may even add another factor,
this time in light of Dumezils work in Mythe et epopee I.38 Such heroes as
the five Pndavos in the Indie Mahbhrata are not only each parallel to
specific gods in traits and actions: they are also sired by these very same
gods.39 So also with Herakles: the best of heroes, as he is described in
the Homeric Hymn to Heroldes (15.1-2), is sired by the best of gods. By
35 For more on the thematic connection of Achilles with the epithet atdsthalos
() reckless, see N pp. 163ff.
36 The nonspecialization of the Herakles figure in comparison with the main heroes of
attested Greek epic suggests that the Herakles theme may be appropriate to poetic forms
other than epic: cf. Burkert 1979a.94.
37 Dumezil 1971.
w Dumezil 1968.117-132.
39 The father/son combinations (to repeat: in each case the fathers are gods and
the sons are mortals): Dharma/Yudhisthira, Vayu/Bhima, Indra/A ijuna, the two
Asvin-s/Xakula and Sahadeva.

Homer and Comparative Mythology

15

contrast, most Homeric heroes are several generations removed from


divine parentage, just as they are several stages removed from the IndoEuropean model of the hero.
There is a striking reflex of this state of affairs on the formal level of
poetic diction. The word in question is hemi-theoi () demigods',
which as we see from Hesiod F 204.100 MW and elsewhere clearly
denotes direct divine parentage on one side ( at verse 100 =
at verse 101), not simply semidivine status.*0 In Hesiod Works and
Days 160, this same word hemi-theoi designates the heroes of the genera
tions that fought at Thebes and Troy.4
041 Yet Homeric diction consistently
refers to this same generation of heroes as heroes () heroes, not
hemi-theoi () demigods. The only exception is at Iliad XII 23,
where hemi-theoi does indeed refer to the Achaean heroes who fought at
Troybut the reference here is madefrom the standpoint of the Homeric audience,
as it looks back, centuries later, at the remains of the Trojan War (see
especially Iliad XII 26-32).42 The point remains, then, that Homeric
poetryunlike other traditional forms of poetrycannot as a rule desig
nate its own heroes as hemitheoi demigods, being restricted instead to
the word heroes. It is as if the Indo-European model of hero were no
longer appropriate for the Homeric tradition of epic narrative, whereas
it remained so for other poetic traditions such as the Hesiodic.43
I return to Hesiod F 204 MW for a remarkable illustration of this prin
ciple. At verses 95 and following, we find a tightly compressed narrative
about the beginnings of the Trojan War: how the Olympian gods were
split into pro-Achaean and pro-Trojan factions ever since the eris strife
at the Judgment of Paris (verses 95-96),44 how the Will of Zeus ordained
the deaths of heroes in the Trojan War (96-123). By good fortune, a
corresponding passage is attested in a fragment from the epic Cycle,
specifically from the beginning of the epic Cypria (F 1 Allen). Here, too,
we find a reference to eris strife, this time designating the Trojan War
itself (Cypria F 1. 5), and how it was the Will of Zeus that heroes should
die at Troy (F 1.6-7).45 So much for the convergences. One major diver
gence, however, is that the heroes of the Trojan War are called heroes in
the Cyclic version (F 1.7 Allen) but hemitheoi demigods in the Hesiodic
(F 204.100 MW). It appears that the epic format is more specialized,
40 Cf. West 1978.191.
41 More on these heroes at p. 126.
42 More on this passage in N 1979a. 159-161. Cf. also Vemant 1985.101. 104, 106.
43 More at p. 126 on the Hesiodic visualization of heroes.
44 More in N pp. 219-221.
45 On the Will of Zeus theme as represented in the Iliad (I 5), see N p. 82 25n2, with
further references.

16

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

more restricted, than other forms of poetry, and that it cannot easily
tolerate the semantics of an Indo-European model that contradicts the
genealogies of its own more specialized, more restricted heroes.
And yet the general themes shared by these Cyclic and Hesiodic pas
sages are distinctly Indo-European in character. Even if the Cyclic Cypria
avoids calling its heroes hemitheoi demigods, these epic figures nonethe
less share a vitally important theme with their distant Indie cousins, the
divinely sired Pndava-s of the Mahbhrata. Zeus brings the eris strife
of the Trojan War because he intends to depopulate the Earth of the myriad
heroes that ivcigh upon her (Cypria F 1.1-6 Allen). Similarly in the
Mahbhrata, the war of the Pndava-s is a divine solution to the overpo
pulation of heroes weighing upon the earth.46 In this way the major epic
narratives of the Greek and the Indie peoples are inaugurated with a
cognate theme, and it is hard to imagine more compelling evidence for
the Indo-European heritage of the epic traditions about the Trojan
War.4748
A related theme, equally important as evidence for an Indo-European
heritage in Greek epic, is apparent in the Iliads own compressed refer
ence to the beginnings of the Trojan Wara theme elaborated in detail
by the Cypria. We have already seen that the war itself is an ms conflict
(Cypria F 1.5 Allen), just as the Judgment of Paris is an eris (Hesiod F
204.96 MW). The eris that marks the beautiful shepherds judgment
took the form of neikos () quarreling (Cypria/ Proclus summary p.
102.15 Allen), and the Iliad itself refers to the whole affair as eris (III
100) or neikos (XXII 116). I emphasize the words eris strife and neikos
quarreling not only because of their thematic importance as a plot
motivation of epic but also because of their programmatic significance
beyond epic. It so happens that the language of Greek praise poetry
designates its own converse, blame poetry, with these very words, eris and
neikos.^ Moreover, epic itself uses the word neikeo as blame in opposi
tion to aine praise (e.g. Iliad X 249-250) .49
This opposition fits the larger pattern of a complementary interplay
between praise and blame, particularly on the level of poetry, in such
Indo-European societies as the Italic, Celtic, and Indie.50 Marcel Detienne has extended the comparison to the Greek evidence,51 and I in
turn have described in detail the diction of praise and blame specifically
46 See Dumezil 1968.16&-169.
47 Cf. Vian 1970. esp. p. 55.
48 N 1979a ch.ll-ch.15.
49 N pp. 34-35, 240.
50 Dumezil 1943; updated in Dumezil 1969.
51 Dctienne 1975.

Homer and Comparative Mythology

17

in Greek poetry.52 The point to be made now, however, is more funda


mental: as we can see from the Iliadic references to the Judgment of
Paris, G reek epic presen ts its ow n gen esis in term s o f th e o p p o sitio n betw een p ra ise
a n d blam e. As the I lia d puts it, the Judgment of Paris entailed the b la m in g
of the goddesses Hera and Athena along with the praising of Aphrodite:
, ,
ff

Iliad XXIV 29-80


[Paris] who blamed [verb neikeo] the goddesses [Hera and Athena], when
they came to his courtyard,
but he praised [verb aineo] her who gave him baneful sensuality.

Thus the primary narrative of Greek epic, which is the Trojan War, is
self-motivated by the Indo-European social principle of counterbalanc
ing praise and blame.
It is precisely in this theme, the Judgment of Paris, that Dumezil has
found the most overt Greek example of a general Indo-European social
ideology that he describes as trifunctionalism. In Dumezils formulation,
society as reflected by the Indo-European languages tends to divide
along the following three lines of ideological organization: (1)
sovereignty and the sacred, (2) warfare, (3) agriculture, herding, and
fertility in general.55 The theme of the Judgment of Paris reflects this
pattern of trifunctionalism. Paris the herdsman is being offered a gift
from each of the three functions: (1) sovereignty, from Hera; (2) mili
tary supremacy, from Athena; and (3) sexual relations with Helen, the
most beautiful woman on earth, from Aphrodite.54
Thus the Judgment of Paris, the ultimate point of departure for the
narrative traditions that we know as Homers epics, can itself be judged
as an epic theme with an Indo-European foundation. More broadly,
Homer can be judged an authoritative source for the myths inherited by
and through the Greek language.
MN 1979a ch .ll-c h . 15.
55See Dumezil 1958.
w Dum6zil 1968.580-586. For further important observations on the Judgm ent of
Paris theme, see Dumezil 1985.15-30.

CHAPTER

Formula and Meter:


The Oral Poetics of Homer

Since the discoveries of Milman Parry1 and Albert Lord2 about the
nature of oral poetry, some problems have developed over how to
define the formula. Parrys own definition will serve as a useful point of
departure: the formula is a group of words which is regularly employed
under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea.3
It is pointless here to launch into a bibliographical survey of scholars
reactions; I propose instead to consider some of the general problems to
be found in the definition itself. The most important of these, one that
requires extensive discussion, has to do with Parrys original frame of
reference. To put it simply, Parry was basing his definition on one body
of evidence alone, the Homeric corpus (that is, the Iliad and Odyssey). If
we look again at Parrys words, we see that he actually prefaced his
definition with The formula in the Homeric poems may be defined as
M
In fact, it is fair to say that the study of oral poetry down to our time
has been destined to develop in a certain direction and almost in a cer
tain order not so much because Homeric poetry had been a preeminent
topic of academic interest for centuries but rather because Milman Parry
in particular based his initial findings exclusively on Homeric poetry. As
late as six years after publication of his two fundamental French theses*
* Parry 1928a, b. The writings of Parry were collected by his son, Parry 1971. I will fol
low the pagination of this edition, placing in square brackets the original dates of publica
tion (notably 1928a, b; 1930).
2 Esp. Lord 1960.
* Parry 1971 [1930] .272.
4 Parry p. 272.

18

Formula and Meter

19

(Parry 1928a, b), at a time when he was already starting fieldwork on


South Slavic oral poetry, Parry was still relying on criteria based squarely
on Homeric poetry. Albert Lord gives us a fascinating glimpse of this
stage in his teachers thinking when he quotes statements like the follow
ing from Parrys own field notes (dictated at Dubrovnik, from December
1, 1934, to February 2, 1935): for some reason, that does not exist for
the South Slavic poetry, there existed for the Greek heroic songs a fixity
of phrasing which is utterly unknown in the South Slavic.5 Much more
fieldwork was yet to follow, and the subsequent research of both Parry
and Lord has led to an entirely different conclusion, that the fixity of
phrasing in South Slavic oral poetry is in fact all-pervasive.6
The experience of fieldwork, then, has here ultimately corrected an
initial impression induced under the Homeric influence. It should be
emphasized, however, that Homeric poetry did not mislead the fieldworker about Homeric poetry; rather, it misled him about South Slavic
poetry. And yet, why should one archaic text, the Homeric corpus, have
had more to say about the nature of oral poetry than the myriad songs
sung by singers in the living South Slavic tradition? The answer is sim
ple: one knew a great deal more about the Homeric tradidon. Centu
ries of philology had already passed in pursuit of every imaginable aspect
in the evoludon of the Iliad and Odyssey. Prodigious efforts at discover
ing the genesis of Greek epic had a way of inspiring confidence that one
was on the track of its essence as well. No matter what we call this
questthe Homeric Question or whateverthe assumption is there:
essence through origins.
Here the evolution of another field of study, that of linguistics,
teaches the student of oral poetry an important lesson: searching for
origins does not necessarily lead to our grasping the essence. In the
nineteenth century the study of language was preoccupied mainly with
its genealogy rather than its structure. Historical linguistics took pre
cedence over other approaches, as we can see from Pedersens eloquent
account in The Discovery of Language (1931). But historical linguistics is
by no means adequate as the sole approach to language. For example,
we will not really know the Latin language simply by tracing it back to an
Indo-European protolanguageeven though the technique of recon
structing Latin and all the other Indo-European languages to a common
prototype has been justifiably called, by a prominent linguist who was
not even an Indo-Europeanist himself, more nearly perfect than that of
any other science dealing with mans institutions.7 Granted, a
5 Lord 1968.33.
J Seeesp. I-ord 1960.47.
7 Sapir 1929.207.

20

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

reconstructed protolanguage may perhaps justifiably be called ua glori


ous artifact, one which is far more precious than anything an archaeolo
gist can ever hope to unearth.8 Nevertheless, the point remains that
reconstruction cannot yield all the answers. What is also needed is a
thorough description of the structure of a given language as it exists at a
given time and place. Since the influential work of the linguist Ferdi
nand de Saussure, such a perspective on language has been called syn
chronic, in contrast to the diachronic perspective, where we see the
structure of a language as it evolves through time.9 For solving most
problems of language, it is now generally recognized that both perspec
tives are needed.10
These concepts of synchronic and diachronic are readily applicable to
the study of oral poetry. What I propose to do throughout this presenta
tion is to stress their abiding usefulness. But first, let us quickly compare
the history of oral studies with the history of linguistic studies. Fieldwork
on South Slavic epic, which is an example of synchronic analysis, came
about much later than philological research into the genesis of the
Homeric corpus, which is clearly diachronic analysis. In general, then,
the evolution of linguistics and oral studies is parallel. In particulars,
too, it was the historical perspective, I submit, that had led Parry at the
outset of his fieldwork to believe that South Slavic oral poetry lacked the
degree of fixity in phrasing that could be found in the Iliad and Odyssey.
Let it not go unsaid, though, that Parrys own approach to the Homeric
corpus was strictly synchronic: he was studying its formulas as blocks of a
real system of traditional diction. My point is simply that Parrys initial
impressions of South Slavic oral poetry were influenced by the
diachronic standpoint of his Homerist predecessors. Once his own syn
chronic perspective took hold, the essence of South Slavic oral poetry
presented him with an altogether different picture.
The synchronic approach, however useful it has been for Parry when
he was analyzing Homeric poetry, was even more effective as a tool for
analyzing South Slavic oral poetry. In the case of the Iliad and Odyssey,
Parry had to confront the philological problem of a fixed text containing
a finite length of discoursevestiges of an oral tradition long dead even
by the time of Plato. Moreover, we know precious little even about the
setting of ancient Greek oral poetrybeyond what we learn from the
texts themselves. By contrast, Parrys fieldwork in Yugoslavia was an
open-ended situation: here he had access to as many performances as
8 Haas 1969.34.
9 Saussure 1916; new ed. 1972.117. For a particularly accessible discussion of these concepts, with essential bibliography, see Ducrot and Todorov 1979.137-144.
10 Cf. Watkins 1973b, 1978b.

Formula and Meter

21

he could record from as many singers as he could find who practiced the
living tradition of oral poetry. It is in fact from the synchronic fieldwork
of Parry and Lord that we gain the most important new fact about oral
poetryone that we could perhaps never have learned from philological
work on the Homeric texts alone. Each and every performance that
Parry recorded from the singers of the living tradition turned out to be,
as he discovered, a distinct composition. Lord sums it up this way:
Singer, performer, composer, and poet are one under different aspects
but at the same time. Singing, performing, composing are facets of the
same act."11
This aspect of oral poetry, which Parry learned from his fieldwork in
Yugoslavia, had vital significance for Parry's concept of the formula. The
Homeric evidence had taught him that the formula is a traditional group
of words regularly recurring in a given rhythmical framework, that is, in
given metrical slots. Now he learns from the South Slavic evidence that
oral poetry may require you to compose while you perform, perform
while you compose. Such a medium, it follows, puts pressure on the
poet/singer to have a ready-made phrase available to fill every position
in the verse, which is the overall frame for his phraseology. Then too,
the singer has to make verse follow verse rapidly. As Lord puts it, T h e
need for the next line is upon him even before he utters the final syl
lable of a line. There is urgency. To meet it the singer builds patterns of
sequences of lines, which we know as the parallelisms of oral style.12
We may all follow intuitively such observations offered by Parry and
Lord about the demands made by performance on composition. But the
Hellenist who has been reared on the classical approaches to the Mad
and Odyssey begins to wonder how an oral system so seemingly automatic
could still result in compositions that seem so integralso premeditated
esthetically, even psychologically. He wonders even more when he reads
some other Hellenists who have championed the findings of Parry. For
example, defining what he calls Parrys law of economy, Denys Page
says the following about the Homeric formula: Generally speaking, for
a given idea within a given place in the line, there will be found in the
vast treasury of phrases one formula and one only.13 Page then goes on
to give a particularly elegant illustration of this principle of thrift by
examining all the Homeric attestations for the sea. I quote his conclu
sions in full:14
11 Lord 1960.13.
12 Lord p. 54.
15 Page 1959.224.

14Page pp. 225-226.

22

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics


For this one idea, the sea," and for its expression in noun + epithet
phrases only, he [the poet] relied upon his memory to provide him with a
ready-made formula for almost every requirement; and the traditional
vocabulary was now so highly developed, so refined and reduced, that for
each requirement he found never, or hardly ever, more than one single
formula. He has no freedom to select his adjectives: he must adopt what
ever combination of words is supplied by tradition for a given part of the
verse; and that traditional combination brings with it an adjective which
may or may not be suitable to the context.

Such assertions about "metrical utility as a primary determinant in the


choice of words15 have vexed legions of Homerists devoted to the artis
try of the Iliad and Odyssey.
Most of the outraged reactions, however, are based on overinterpreta
tion of the Parry-Lord theories. To infer that Homer cannot do this
or thateven against his own artistic wishesis to misunderstand Parry
and Lord altogether; a careful rereading of Albert Lords Singer of Tales
chapter 3 (The Formula) is then in order.16 What Parry was saying is
that the Homeric language is free of phrases which, having the same
metrical value and expressing the same idea, could replace one another.17
Moreover, the context of Parrys statement is a discussion of fixed
epithets that are distinctive rather than generic, like muchsuffering brilliant, which is applied to Odysseus only,
swift-footed brilliant, applied to Achilles only, great
flashing-helmeted, to Hektor only, and so on.18 Let us pursue the dis
tinction between generic and distinctive epithets. The former class of
adjectives is appropriate to any hero, under the right metrical conditions.
Where the generic and the distinctive epithets have the same metrical
shape, either can be applied to the hero, depending on the requirements of
the theme at hand.19 When we add this regular Homeric phenomenon
of interchange between generic and distinctive epithets to the sporadic
phenomenon, as also noted by Parry himself, of interchange among disr
tinctive epithets,20 we begin to see more clearly that the Homeric thrift
15 To borrow the apt phrasing of Holoka 1973.258.
16 Lord 1960.30-67.
17 Parry 1971 [1930].276 (italics mine).
18 Cf. Parry [1930].276-278. On the distinction between generic and distinctive types of
epithets, see Parry [1928a] .64. Both generic and distinctive epithets belong to the larger
category of fixed epithets, as distinct from particularized epithets, on which see Parry
[1928a].153-165. For a useful bibliographical survey of recent work on the subject: [M.
W ] Edwards 1986.188-201.
19 Cf. Parry [1928a]. 149.
20 Parry [1928a]. 177-180.

Formula and Meter

23

of expression," to use Parrys own words,21 is not really a conditioning


principle.
In fact, it can be argued that the principle of economy is not a cause
but an effect of traditional diction. From the diachronic standpoint, we
can imagine a scenario for the development of a distinctive into a gener
ic epithet. Suppose that a traditional theme about one given hero with a
given epithet becomes applied and reapplied to a succession of other
heroes. Within parallel epic actions, then, his epithet would follow these
other heroes. If the theme is broad enough, and influential enough, it
may in time accommodate a whole class of heroes, such as the figures
assigned by tradition to the times of the Trojan War. By then, one origi
nal heros epithet may have become appropriate to a whole set of other
heroes cast in the same epic mold, so to speak.
As for epithets that still function in a distinctive phase, one sees them
from the diachronic standpoint as capsules of traditional themes associ
ated with the noun described. A distinctive epithet is like a small theme
song that conjures up a thought-association with the traditional essence
of an epic figure, thing, or concept. To cite an example that has
deservedly become a commonplace: Odysseus is muchsuffering throughout the Iliad because he is already a figure in an epic
tradition about adventures that he will have after Troy. My saying after"
here applies only to the narrative sequence: the Iliad is recording the
fact that Odysseus already has an Odyssey tradition about himwhich is
certainly not the final Odyssey, the fixed text that has come down to us.
In sum, the diachronic viewpoint suggests that the prime regulator of
Homeric epithet in particular and formula in general is traditional theme
rather than current meter,22*
Of course, a great deal remains to be said about meter and its
synchronic/diachronic relation to formula. For now, however, the point
is simply that the gaps in the Homeric principle of thrift prove nothing
more than the fact that meter does not automatically trigger ready-made
words. The ready-made words are determined by the themes of the composition, and the degree of thrift that we do find is due to a long-term
streamlining of these themes in the context of the metrical frame. In
this connection, the evidence of the Hesiodic corpus helps supplement
what we know about the Homeric corpus. From the important work of
G. P. Edwards, we learn that Hesiodic poetry is just as formulaic as the
Homeric, and that here, too, we can find regular instances where the
21 Party [1930] .279.
22 For a particularly elegant illustration in detail, I cite the work of Shannon 1975 on the
Homeric epithets describing ash spears (for an important earlier work using similar metho
dology, see also Whallon 1961).

24

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

principle of economy is observed and sporadic instances where it is


not.23 Significantly, the areas of nonobservance in Homeric and
Hesiodic poetry often differ.24 From the diachronic point of view, we
may wish to posit here the factor of chronological variation, where the
principle of economy is waived in order to leave room for an older or
newer expression that is more apt for an older or newer theme. There
may also be regional variation: the inherited themes of Homeric and
Hesiodic poetry must have been filtered through different traditions
from different places. As the boasting Aeneas says to the boasting
Achilles in a mutually menacing encounter:

Iliad X X

249

There is a great range of epics from place to place.

I will defer the reasons for my translating as I did until later. For now,
the argument is simply that both the regular observance and the
sporadic nonobservance of the thrift principle may reflect the force of
traditional themes. Finally, considering all the instances of nonobser
vance and following Roman Jakobsons useful concept of distinguishing
poetic trends from constants,2 5 1 will henceforth refer to the trend toward
thrift" instead of law of thrift /economy."
On the subject of thrift, we may develop a better synchronic insight
from the fieldwork of Parry and Lord in South Slavic poetry. Their
findings suggest that there is a trend toward thrift that is parallel to what
is found in the Homeric corpusbut primarily on the level of the individual
singers composition. Lord puts it this way: Indeed, it seems to me that
the thriftiness which we find in individual singers and not in districts or
traditions is an important argument for the unity of the Homeric poems.
Homers thriftiness finds its parallel in the individual Yugoslav singer,
but not in the collected songs of a number of different singers."26 An
important amplification seems in order: from the synchronic evidence
of South Slavic oral poetry, where we see that composition and perfor
mance are one, we may also infer that the composition of the Iliad and
that of the Odyssey are also a matter of performance. Homeric poetry is a
performance medium, no matter how difficult it is for us to imagine any
25 Edwards 1971.
24 Edwards pp. 55-73, ch. 5: The Principle of Economy."
25Jakobson 1952.
26 Lord 1960.53.

Formula and Meter

25

possible context for actual recitation of epics that size.27*2931Otherwise such


Homeric phenomena as the strong trend toward thrift would be absent.
Having discounted meter as the primary cause of fixity in formulaic
behavior, we may now attempt to take a diachronic look at the evolution
of formula systems. Lords fundamental observations about the formula
in Singer of Tatest though they are based on the synchronic perspective
of his experiences in the field, are also replete with valuable diachronic
insights. In what amounts to a manifesto, he declares: For the singing
we hear today, like the everyday speech around us, goes back in a direct
and long series of singings to a beginning which, no matter how difficult
it may be to conceive, we must attempt to grasp, because otherwise we
shall miss an integral part of the meaning of the traditional formula.w29
He considers the genesis of formulas not only within the tradition at
large but also within the individual singer:90 Even in pre-singing years
rhythm and thought are one, and the singers concept of the formula is
shaped though not explicit He is aware of the successive beats and the
varying lengths of repeated thoughts, and these might be said to be his
formulas. Basic patterns of meter, word boundary, melody have become
his possession, and in him the tradition begins to reproduce itself."
Surely the dictum applies: ontogeny recapitulates phytogeny.9* How, then,
does tradition generate formulas in the singer? The key, it seems, is to
be found in the traditional themes inherited by the singer:92 T h e fact of
narrative song is around him from birth; the technique of it is in the pos
session of his elders, and he falls heir to it. Yet in a real sense he does
recapitulate the experiences of the generations before him stretching
back to the distant past." Accordingly, although I agree with Lords
statement that, in making his lines, the singer is not bound by the for
mula,"99 I would also add that the singer is indeed bound by the tradi
tional theme. The theme, I submit, is the key to all the other levels of
fixity in oral poetryincluding both the formulaic and the metrical
levels.
The degree of the singers adherence to the traditional theme can
best be shown by examining the content as well as the form of epic. It is
particularly instructive to consider the evidence from Homeric poetry
and beyond, as we see from Marcel Detiennes careful investigation of
27 For a discussion of such contexts, see p. 38.
** Ix>rd 1960.30-67.
29 Lord p. 31.
90 Lord p. 32.
31 It is also from the present vantage point that I find it pertinent to adduce the genera
tive" theory of Nagler 1967 and 1974.
32 Lord 1960.32.
33 Lord p. 54.

26

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

the attitude of Hellenic society toward the aoidos singer and the attitude
of the singer toward his craft.34 The traditional boast of the Hellenic
singer, as an individual performer, is that he preserves the truth about
heroic actions without having to be an eyewitness. Instead, the truth is
his simply by virtue of his hearing from the Muses what they saw. As the
singer declares at the beginning of the Catalogue,
, ,

Iad

II 485-496

You [Muses] are gods: you are there [when things happen] and you know
everything.
But we [singers] know nothing: we just hear th e kleos.

The claim of knowing nothing masks a highly sophisticated boast. From


its etymology, we know that the Greek word (kleos) was originally
an abstract noun meaning simply the act of hearing. The word came
to mean fame because it had been appropriated by the singer in his
traditional role as an individual performer to designate what he sang about
the actions of gods and heroes. The meaning fame betrays merely the
consequences. It shows the social prestige of the poets art form. The
actions of gods and heroes gain fame through the medium of the singer,
and the singer calls his medium kleos, from the act of hearing.35 Since
the singer starts his performance by asking his Muse to tell him" the
subject, his composition is in fact being presented to his audience as
something that he hears from the very custodians of all stages of reality.
The Muses are speaking to him, and they have the ipsissima verba of the
Heroic Age.
The poets inherited conceit, then, is that he has access not only to
the content but also to the actual form of what his eyewitnesses, the
Muses, speak as they describe the realities of remote generations. I
should emphasize that this conceit is linked with the poets inherited
role as an individual performer, and that only in performance can the for
mula exist and have clear definition.36 The formulas are the selfsame
words spoken by the Muses themselves: they are recordings of the Muses
who were there when everything happened. In fact, the frame in which
these formulas are contained, the dactylic hexameter, was actually called
34 Detienne 1973.
35 For an extended discussion, see N 1974a.244-252; on the cognate Slavic words slava
glory and slovo word, epic tale, see N 1979a. 16 2n3.
36 Lord 1960.33.

Formula and Meter

27

(epos) by the composer /performer himself, as Hermann Koller has


argued in detail.37 Since the dactylic hexameter, as well as all verses, has
an inherited tendency to be syntactically self-contained,38 the epos is truly
an epic utterancean epic sentencefrom the standpoint of the Muses
or of any character quoted by the Muses. The word introducing
Homeric quotations is in fact regularly epos. There are even some subtle
grammatical distinctions, in traditions of formulaic behavior, between
the epos that the Muses quote and the epos that they simply narrate.39 In a
medium that carries with it such inherited conceits about accuracy and
even reality, we can easily imagine generations after generations of audi
ences conditioned to expect from the performer the most extreme
degree of fixity in content, fixity in form.
Of course, different audiences in different places may be raised on
traditions that are variants. When the heroic figures of Aeneas and
Achilles meet on the battlefield (IUad XX), they try to intimidate each
other by boasting of the variant epics serving as background for their
heroic exploits. Aeneas tells Achilles not to try to frighten him with the
epea (XX 200-201)let us call them his epics. There is further allu
sion to the power of epea as Aeneas continues:
'. ,

6 dp dp
Iliad

XX 203-205

We know each other's birth, we know each others parents,


hearing the famed epea from mortal men.
And yet you have never seen my parents, nor I yours.

There are, as Aeneas warns Achilles, variant epea about the same heroes:
, *
,
* ,
Iliad

XX 248-250

The tongue of men is twisted, and there are many words there
of every kind; there is a great range of epea from place to place.57
57 Koller 1972.
MCf. N 1974a. 143-145.
C f. Kelly 1974.

28

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics


The kind of epos that you say is the kind of epos that you will hear in turn
about yourself.

The most striking feature of this Aeneas/Achilles episode is that the


Iliad in Book XX actually allows part of the Aeneas tradition to assert
itself at the expense of Achilles, who had taunted Aeneas by predicting
that he will never replace Priam as king of Troy (XX 178-183). The god
Poseidon himself then predicts the opposite (XX 302-308); the dynasty
of Aeneas will prevail in the Troad, and there will be a vindication of his
minis anger* against King Priam (XIII 460-461)a theme that finds a
parallel in the minis anger of Achilles against King Agamemnon in Iliad
Book I, verses 1 and following.
One of the most obvious traces of a variant epic tradition in Iliad XX
is the surprising rescue of Trojan Aeneas by one of the most proAchaean Olympians, the god Poseidon. From the researches of Felix
Jacoby40 and others,41 we can reconstruct a motivation for the use of
such a tradition. During the times that our Iliad was evolving into its ulti
mate form, there may well have existed a special cult affinity between the
god Poseidon and a dynasty of Aeneadae claiming descent from Aeneas.
In Iliad XX (302-308) as well as in the Homme Hymn to Aphrodite
(196-197), the contemporary importance of such a dynasty is being
retrojected into the Heroic Age by such epic devices as the prophecy to
Aeneas that his descendants, not Priams, will be the ones who are to
hold sway in the Troad.42 What has not been sufficiently stressed in pre
vious studies, however, is that the traditions about the Aeneadae must
themselves have been transmitted through the medium of epic.43 In
other words, the wording of the Aeneas/Achilles episode shows that
there had been a regional epic tradition about Aeneas that was destined
to glorify the Aeneadaeto give them kleos,44
I have gone to such lengths in discussing this particular Homeric
scene in order to illustrate how regional variations may result in oral
traditions with different themes appropriate to different places; and the
different themes can in turn lead to corresponding differences in formu
laic behavior. In other words, fixity of form in oral poetry should not be
confused with uniformity.
40Jacoby 1961 [1933] 1:39-48,51-53.
41 Most notably Donini 1967.
42 This is not to say that the Hymn to Aphrodite, let alone the Iliad, was expressly composed
for an audience of Aeneadae: for further discussion, with bibliography, see N 1979a.
268-269.
45 Further discussion N pp. 268-269.
44 N pp. 268-269.

Formula and Meter

29

Lack of uniformity is caused by the dimension of time as well as that


of space. Although the medium of oral poetry may look upon itself as
containing the original, actual words of the Heroic Age, irreplaceable
and immortal,45 its Dichtersprache will nevertheless undergo change in
dme, much as everyday language does. Since, however, epic deliberately
resists change in order to preserve the ipsissima verba, the linguistic inno
vations that do occur in its Dichtersprache will not keep apace with the
linguistic innovations of the everyday language from which it evolves.
Consequently, the language of a body of oral poetry like the Iliad and
Odyssey does not and cannot belong to any one time, any one place: in a
word, it defies synchronic analysis.*6 Such chronological stratification in
form can surely be expected to affect content. Meanwhile, content, too,
can be expected to shift with the passage of timeeven if the actual
shifts in the presentation of a given traditional theme to audiences from
one generation to the next might be too subtle for detection at any one
occasion of performance/composition. Change is possible even if both
performer and audience expect strict adherence to the traditional
theme.
Once having made due allowances for some degree of evolution and
variation in traditional theme, I must now return to emphasizing its
remarkable stability and archaism. The fixity of phrasing in oral poetry,
as I have argued, is actually due primarily to the factor of traditional
theme rather than meter. Accordingly, I now offer a working definition
of the formula that leaves out the factor of meter as the prime condition
ing force: theformula is a fixed phrase conditioned by the traditional themes of
oral poetry. Furthermore, I am ready to propose that meter is diachronicatty
generated byformula rather than vice versa.
By applying the linguistic techniques of comparative reconstruction47
to the fixed phraseology of native Greek and Indie poetry, I have argued
elsewhere48 that it is possible to find cognate phrases containing identi
cally shaped rhythms. The existence of such comparanda would corro
borate the theory that the speakers of these two Indo-European
languages have preserved two cognate poetic systems.49 In the oldest
attested phases of Indie poetry, moreover, it can be shown that phraseol
ogy is regular even where meter is irregular.50 This set of facts can be
45 In the words of Page 1959.225.
46 Cf. Householder and Nagy 1972.738-745.
47 Cf. Meillet 1925 for the most elegant model.
48 N 1974a.
49 Cf. Meillet 1923, Jakobson 1952, Watkins 1963 and 1982a, West 1973a and 1973b, N
1974a and 1979b, Vine 1977 and 1978.
50 N 1974a. 191-228.

30

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

supplemented with the discovery, made by Antoine Meillet,51 that in


early Indie poetry metrical trends do not create new phrases. Rather, there
are traceable tendencies of preferring phrases with one kind of rhythm
over phrases with other kinds of rhythm. Predictable patterns of rhythm
emerge from favorite traditional phrases with favorite rhythms; the even
tual regulation of these patterns, combined with regulation of the syll
able count in the traditional phrases, constitutes the essendals of what
we know as meter. Granted, meter can develop a synchronic system of its
own, regulating any new incoming phraseology; nevertheless, its origins
are from traditional phraseology. In short, the comparadve evidence of
Indie poetry leads to a parallel formulation about meter and traditional
phraseology in early Greek poetry.52 In this case, however, we may
specify formula" instead of the more general traditional phraseology."
The comparative approach, to be sure, allows us to extend our
notions about phraseology and meter only to a degree. The metrical
perspective in this case is restricted to those features of meter in general
that the cognate Greek and Indie poetic material in particular happen to
preserve as cognate phenomena, namely isosyllabism, regular patterning
of long and short syllables, and so on.59 The additional perspective on
phraseology54 is likewise restricted, at least for the moment, to what the
evidence from the cognate Greek and Indie material reveals. Ideally, the
comparative method requires at least three cognate systems.55 With these
allowances duly recorded, an important point can still be made simply by
combining the diachronic with the synchronic view of Greek and Indie
poetic phraseology. From a synchronic study of cognate Greek and
Indie phrases as they are found functioning independently in each of
the two poetic traditions, we discover that the regularities governing the
behavior of the given phrases are also cognate; furthermore, in the case
of the Greek evidence, the regularities are formulaic.56 Accordingly, the
comparative method suggests that the cognate regularities in Indie poe
try, most notably in the Rig-Veda, are also formulaic.57
If indeed Rig-Vedic poetry is formulaic, may we therefore call it oral
poetry? In order to answer such a question, we shall have to reckon at a
later point with a problem peculiar to the Rig-Veda, to wit, that we see
M Meillet 1920.
52 N 1974a.l40-149.
55 For bibliography, see n49.
M N 1974a.
55 Meillet 1925.38.
56 Cf. N 1974a. 103-117.
57 For another example of the comparative approach to formulaic analysis, see Sacks
1974 on the subject of cognate Old Norse and Old English formulas in cognate metrical
contexts.

Formula and Meter

31

here a fixed texi with a nonwritten transmission extending over what appears
to have been immense stretches of time.58 As we shall see, there is an
analogous problem with Homeric and Hesiodic poetry.59
Throughout this presentation I have allowed myself to make refer
ence to meter as something that contains or frames formulas. Such a
point of view, however, is stricdy synchronic. From the diachronic point
of view, I have now also maintained that formula generates meter. A
demonstration is far easier on the basis of the Indie material than on
that of the Greek, mainly because Indie meters tend to be so much
simpler in structure and because their origins are consequently so much
easier to trace. For example, the short verse lengths in Rig-Vedic poetry
regularly coincide with syntactical phrase or clause lengths,60 whereas
Greek hexameter is such a comparatively long verse that it regularly
accommodates two phrases and over, or even two clauses and over. In
this connection, it is pertinent to cite Hermann Frnkels theory that the
Greek hexameter is innately divisible into four cola," and that the divi
sions are determined by (1) the places where the verse begins and ends
with word-breaks, (2) the places within the verse where word-breaks
predictably recur (that is, caesuras and diaereses).61
Word-breaking, however, is only a surface phenomenon. What is
really going on is that the colon lengths regularly coincide with syntacti
cal phrase or clause lengths.62 Of course, even before the colon theory
had ever been propounded, Parry himself had shown the way when he
observed that the canonical word breaks of Greek hexameter mark the
places where formulas begin and end.63
We come back, then, to the question posed at the outset: how are we
to imagine the strict correlation between formula and meter as part of a
here-and-now poetic process, where the performer is actually compos
ing? The imagination boggles at the degrees of formal strictness that we
discover from reading a book like J. B. Hainsworths The Flexibility of the
Homeric Formula, concerning the interaction of Homeric formula and
meter.64 The key word in this books title, flexibility, is a counterweight to
Parrys original definition of the formula, with its overemphasis on
58 See p. 41.
59 See p. 41.
60 Cf. Renou 1952.334.
61 Frankel 1960.
62 Cf. Russo 1966. A similar point is made by Ingalls 1972 in his discussion of how to
define the formula. He implicitly takes up Russos suggestion that there is an intimate rela
tion between metrical blocks (cola) and syntactical blocks (formulas). Cf. the bibliographi
cal discussion in [M. W.) Edwards 1986.188-201.
65 Pany 1928b.
64 Hainsworth 1968.

32

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

identical metrical positioning and identical phrasing.65 And yet, flexibil


ity should not be confused with irregularity. Hainsworths study of flexi
bility in Homeric phraseology shows really just the opposite of irregular
ity, in that the processes whereby one formula is transformed into
another, with different metrical position, inflection, qualifier, and so on,
are themselves highly regulated. The flexibility is also regular. In other
words, the variations on the regularities are also regular. The strictness
is still there, and the synchronic perspective is simply not adequate to
account for all its aspects.
Here is where the diachronic approach is needed. It is from this per
spective, as we see implicitly from the work of Russo and others,66 that
the interaction between formula and meter can be best understood.
The colon system of Greek hexameter, Russo argues, is correlated with a
formula system that in turn is correlated with a syntax system. Russo here is
intuiting something about the evolution of traditional Greek poetry that
can be seen readily from the comparative evidence of Indie poetry. (As
in linguistics, the comparative method is invaluable for the diachronic
perspective.) In the Rig-Veda we find that the correlations between
metrical units (verse) and syntactical units (phrase or clause) are much
more simple and basic than those in Greek epic. Furthermore, as a syn
chronic examination will show, the regularities of meter are clearly
subordinate to the regularities of phrasing; the inference, then, is that
metrical units were diachronically generated from phraseological units.67
Meter may then become a viable structure in its own right, and it may
even develop independently of traditional phraseology. The Greek hex
ameter, as I have argued elsewhere, is an example of such a develop
ment; it is built from smaller inherited meters, and thus it can regularly
accommodate two formulas and over.68
Even if formula lengths do not correspond to the overall verse lengths
of the Greek hexameter, they do correspond to the metrical com
ponents of the verse length, namely, the cola. Such correspondences
are verifiable from a synchronic description,69 but it is important not to
overemphasize the factor of cola and underemphasize the factor of for
mulas. Again, the diachronic perspective suggests that formula shapes
generated colon shapes, not vice versa.70 Accordingly, from the syn65 Cf. Ingalls 1972.111-114.
66 Russo 1966. For earlier works leading in the same direction, I cite O Neill 1942 and
Porter 1951.
67 N 1974a.l40-149.
68 N pp. 49-102, modified in N 1979b.
60 Cf. Ingalls 1972.
70 N 1974a.49-82.

Formula and Meter

33

chronie perspective, we can expect formula structure to be regular even


where colon structure is irregular;71 Where a structure B evolves diachronically from structure A, the patterns of A are not automatically predict
able from those of B. Certain patterns in A will seem irregular in terms
of B, which has evolved beyond A in the continuing process of regulari
zation.
For an illustration, I cite the following two verses from the Odyssey,
using Frnkels notation for the relevant colon junctures:7273
(2) (C2)
Odyssey i

Tell me. Muse, of the man of many turns, who in very many ways
* (2) (C2)
Odyssey

330

You must be Odysseus of many turns, whom to me always

From the standpoint of pure phraseology, the combinations


(accusative) + (nominative)
(nominative) + (accusative)

seem to be part of a formulaic unit that bridges the colon juncture


labeled C2 above. From the standpoint of meter, on the other hand, the
same combinations have a break at the same colon juncture C2, and this
metrical break is even accompanied by a syntactical break. Because
meter in this instance seems at odds with phraseology, there is some con
cern whether we have here a chance combination or a formula."75 On
the basis of this and other examples, it has been suggested that the
Homeric corpus may contain some repetitions that are simply "due to
chance."74 Instead, I would suggest that any phraseological "spilling"
over caesuras, diaereses, or even verse junctures may be traditional
rather than innovative. In Homeric diction, the traditional phraseology
can reflect rhythmical patterns older than the current norms of the hex
ameter.75 Then, too, in the case at hand, the adjective
71 N pp. 82-102.
71 Frankel 1960.
73 Ingalls 1972.120.
74 Ingalls p. 121.
75 Cf. N 1974a.82-98.

34

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

(poltropos) of many turns is functioning in place of the generic epithet


(ditphilos) dear to Zeus, ready-made for the slotu- uw between
B2 and C2.76
The formulaic nature of this adjective (poltropos) of
many turns is made apparent in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, where we
see its placement in exactly the same slo tu -u u between B2 and C2 of
verses 13 and 439. In both these verses, it serves as the epithet of
Hermes, god of mediation between all the opposites of the universe. As
mediator between light and dark, life and death, wakefulness and sleep,
heaven and earth, and so on, Hermes is (poltropos) of many
turns. The application of this traditional Hermetic characterization to
Odysseus in line 1 of Book i in the Odyssey, by virtue of its very prom
inence, sets an overall tone for the multiple (self-)characterizations of
Odysseus that will follow in this epic. The second and only other appli
cation, in x 330 of the Odyssey, reveals just as much in particular as the
first application had in general. The immediate context becomes clear
when we reexamine the verse in combination with the verse that follows:
(2) (C2)

Odyssey 330-331
You must be Odysseus poltropos [= of many turns], about whose
future coming he used to talk to me alwaysthe one with the golden rod,
the Argeiphontes.

The subject is Hermes, and the speaker is the beautiful witch Circe,
whose wiles have just been overcome by Odysseus with the help of
Hermes. She actually identifies Odysseus on the basis of knowledge
from and of Hermes. Here again, then, we see traditional theme
motivating formula, which in turn motivates meter orif we want to
become more specificthe presence of a colon juncture at C2 in verses i
1 and x 330 of the Odyssey. Such a minute metrical detail is but a trivial
consequence in the overall hierarchy of the traditional epic diction. As
Gerald Else has said of the Greek bards, their language and their narra
tive technique has a structure, is a structure, which gives more than
firmness to their work. The qualities which Matthew Arnold attributed
to Homer are in the main a function of the technique.77
76 Parry 1971 [1928a]. 156-157.
77 Else 1967.348.

Formula and Meter

35

I close with a general statement that again links the study of oral po
etry with linguistics. In the intellectual history of linguisdcs as an
academic discipline, the diachronic approach preceded the synchronic.
For the actual methodology of linguistics, it is now recognized that the
synchronic analysis of language must precede the diachronic. For solv
ing the manifold mysteries of language, however, the synchronic
approach is not sufficient and must be supplemented with the
diachronic approach. I am proposing the same program for solving the
problem of formula and meter in the study of oral poetry. The syn
chronic approach, although it is the essential first step, is not sufficient.
As Albert Lord says about traditional poetry,78
It cannot be treated as a flat surface. All the elements in traditional poetry
have depth, and our task is to plumb their sometimes hidden recesses; for
there will meaning be found. We must be willing to use the new tools for
invesdgation of multiforms of themes and patterns, and we must be willing
to learn from the experiences of other oral traditional poetries. Otherwise
oral is only an empty label and traditional" is devoid of sense. Together
they form merely a facade behind which scholarship can continue to apply
the poetics of written literature.
78Lord 1968.46.

CHAPTER 3

Hesiod and the Poetics


of Pan-Hellenism

T he Hesiodic Question
From the vantage point of the ancient Greeks themselves, no
accounting of Homer is possible without an accounting of Hesiod as
well. In the fifth century B.C., Herodotus was moved to observe (2.53.2)
that the Greeks owed the systematization of their godswe may say, of
their universeto two poets, Homer and Hesiod. The current fashion is
to argue, from the internal evidence of their poetry, that both lived
sometime in the latter half of the eighth century, roughly three hundred
years before Herodotus composed his Historiesalthough there is con
siderable controversy about which of the two was earlier. For Herodotus,
as for all Greeks of the Classical period, however, the importance of
Homer and Hesiod was based not on any known historical facts about
these poets and their times. Whatever Homer and Hesiod may have
meant to the eighth century, the only surviving historical fact about
them centers on what their poems did indeed mean to the succeeding
centuries extending into the historical period. From Herodotus and
others, we know that the poems of Homer and Hesiod were the primary
artistic means of encoding a value system common to all Greeks.1
In this connection it is worthwhile to correct a common misconcep
tion: Homer is not simply an exponent of narrative any more than
Hesiod is an exponent of purely didactic poetry.2*The explicitly narrative
1Cf. also Xenophanes BIO DK on Homer, Heraclitus B 57 DK on Hesiod.
2On Hesiodic poetry as a type of "Mirror of Princes, see Martin 1984a; cf. also Wat
kins 1979.

36

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

37

structure of epic, as is the case with mythmaking in general, frames a


value system that sustains and in fact educates a given society.3 Con
versely, as we shall see, the teachings of Hesiod fhune an implicit narra
tive about the poet and his life.
The question is, why were these two poets universally accepted by the
Greeks of Classical times? Such acceptance is especially remarkable in
view of the striking diversity that characterizes Greece throughout this
period. Each polis or city was a state unto itself, with its own traditions
in government, law, religion. Moreover, the diversity that prevailed
among the many city-states of Greece had already taken shape by the
eighth century, the very era that scholars agree in assigning to Homer
and Hesiod. How, then, could the diversification of the Greeks coincide
with the consolidation of their poetic heritage? The evidence of
archaeology helps provide a partial answer. In the eighth century the
emergence of distinct city-states with distinct localized traditions was
simultaneous with a countertrend of intercommunication among the
elite of these city-statesthe trend of pan-Hellenism.4 The patterns of
intercommunication were confined to a few specific social phenomena,
all datable starting with the eighth century: the organization of the
Olympic Games; the establishment of Apollos sanctuary and oracle at
Delphi; organized colonizations (the Greek word for which is ktisis); the
proliferation of the alphabet5
Another phenomenon that may be included is Homeric and Hesiodic
poetry, featuring overall traditions that synthesize the diverse local tradi
tions of each major city-state into a unified pan-Hellenic model that suits
most city-states but corresponds exactly to none.6 Erwin Rohde cites in
particular the Homeric and Hesiodic concept of the Olympian gods,
which transcends the individual concepts of these same gods as they are
worshiped on the level of cult in the localized traditions of the citystates.7 We have in this example what amounts to internal evidence cor
roborating the external evidence summed up in Herodotus statement:
Homeric and Hesiodic poetry systematized the city-states diverse ideolo
gies about the gods into a set of attributes and functions that all Hellenes
could accept. (The earliest unambiguous attestation of the word
panlenes in the sense of pan-Hellenes or all Greeks is in Hesiod
Works and Days 528.)
5 See pp. 8ff.
4 See pp. 9ff.
5 Cf. Snodgrass 1971.421, 435.
6 CT.N 1979a.7.
7 Rohde 1898 1:125-127. Cf. pp. lOff.

38

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

The notion that the Homeric and Hesiodic poems were a panHellenic phenomenon going back to the eighth century leads to the
tempting scenario of connecting a likewise pan-Hellenic phenomenon,
alphabetic writing: the formative stage of the Greek alphabet, after all, is
dated to the eighth century. According to this scenario, the Homeric
and Hesiodic poems were enshrined for the Greeks because they were
written down, thus becoming fixed texts that proliferated throughout
the Hellenic world. The problem is, how exactly are we to imagine this
proliferation? It is clear that literacy was a tenuous phenomenon at best
throughout the archaic period of Greece, and the pan-Hellenic spread
of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems during this period stretching from
the eighth to the fifth century could hardly be attributed to some
hypothetical circulation of manuscripts. To put it bluntly: it seems
difficult to imagine an incipient eighth-century reading publiclet
alone one that could have stimulated such widespread circulation of the
Homeric and Hesiodic poems.
The argument for an archaic reading public is actually rendered
pointless by the historical fact that the medium of transmitting the
Homeric and Hesiodic poems was consistently that of performance, not
reading. One important traditional context of poetic performance was
the institution of pan-Hellenic festivals, though there may well have been
other appropriate public events as well.8 The competing performers at
such public events were called rhapsmdot 'rhapsodes' (as in Herodotus
5.67.1), one of whom has been immortalized in Platos Ion. We learn
that the rhapsode Ion has come from his home in Ephesus to compete
with other rhapsodes by reciting Homer at the Feast of the Panathenaia
at Athens, after having already won at another festival, the Feast of
Asclepius in Epidauros (Ion 530ab). In the dialogue as dramatized by
Plato, Socrates ascertains that Ion is a specialist in Homer, to the exclu
sion of Hesiod and Archilochus (Ion 531a and 532a)the implication
being that there are other rhapsodes who specialize in these other
poets.9 Socrates and Ion then go on to discuss the different repertoires
required for the rhapsodes recitation of Homer and Hesiod (see espe
cially Ion 531a-d). In fact, Plato elsewhere presents Homer and Hesiod
themselves as itinerant rhapsodes (Republic 600d). The examples could
be multiplied, but the point is already clear: the proliferation of the
Homeric and Hesiodic poems throughout Greece in the archaic period
(and beyond) did not depend on the factor of writing.
8 . N 1979a.815nl.
9 For more on the rhapsodic recitation of the poetry of Archilochus, see e.g. Ctearchus
F 92 Wehrli.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

39

Even if Homer and Hesiod were meant to be heard in performance,


not read, there are those who insist that writing was an essential factor at
least in the composition and transmission of their poetry. Here we must
turn to the study of oral poetry, as perfected by Milman Parry and Albert
Lord.10 The fieldwork of these scholars was based on the living poetic
traditions of the South Slavic peoples, and the theories that were
developed from their fieldwork were then tested on Homericand later
on Hesiodicpoetry.11 The findings of Parry and Lord have on occasion
been viewed with suspicion by prominent Hellenists, who fear that the
analogy between the typical South Slavic guslar and a Homer demeans
the latter and overly exalts the former. This is to misunderstand the
intellectual basis of fieldworkand of anthropological research in gen
eral. The mechanics of living traditions, however lowly they may seem to
Hellenists, can provide indispensable information for extensive typologi
cal comparison with those of other traditions, living or dead.
We learn from the experience of fieldwork that composition in oral
poetry becomes reality only in performance, and that the poets interac
tion with his audience can directly affect the form and content of
composition as well as of performance. Moreover, the actual workings of
formulaic diction are to be ascertained directly in the dimension of
performancea dimension that is of course now extinct in the case of
the Homeric and Hesiodic texts. In studying this factor of performance
as reflected by the living South Slavic traditions, Parry and Lord worked
out criteria of formulaic behavior that, when applied to the Homeric
text, establish it, too, as oral poetry. For example, one reliable indica
tion of oral poetry is the principle of economy as it operates on the level
of each individual performance; each position in the verse tends to allow
one way, rather than many ways, of saying any one thing.12*As it turns
out, this principle is at work in Homeric poetry as well, which suggests
that the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey is also a matter of per
formance.15 The principle of economy, as G. P. Edwards has demon
strated,14 is also at work in Hesiodic poetry; moreover, both Homeric
and Hesiodic poetry reveal parallel patterns of general adherence to and
occasional deviation from this principle.15
If, then, the Homeric and Hesiodic poems are reflexes of oral poetry,
we can in theory eliminate writing as a factor in the composition of these
10 Parry 1971 and Lord 1960.
11 See pp. 181.
12 See pp. 21ff.
15 See pp. 21ff.
14 Edwards 1971.
15 See pp. 23ff.

40

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

poems, much as we have eliminated it as a factor in their performance.


The absence of writing would suit, at least superficially, the findings of
Parry and Lord: in the South Slavic traditions, oral poetry and literacy
are incompatible. But now we have to reckon with a new problem, one
raised by the study of oral poetry itself. The findings of Parry and Lord
also suggest that composition and performance are aspects of the same
process in oral poetry, and that no poets composition is ever identical
even to his previous composition of the same poem at a previous per
formance, in that each performance entails a recomposition of the
poets inherited material.
The problem, then, is this: how could the Homeric and Hesiodic
poems survive unchanged into the historical period without the aid of
writing? One solution is to posit that the poems were dictated by their
illiterate composers. But we have already noted that the hypothetical
existence of fixed texts in, say, the eighth century cannot by itself
account for the proliferation of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry
throughout the city-states. That process, as we have also noted, must be
attributed long-range to the recurrent competitive performances of the
poems over the years by rhapsodes at such events as pan-Hellenic fes
tivals. Thus we must resort to positing the existence of early fixed texts
only if the competing rhapsodes really needed to memorize written ver
sions in order to perform, and for this there is no evidence.
On the contrary, there is evidence that the rhapsodes preserved in
their performances certain aspects of poetic diction that would not have
been written down in any early phase of the textual transmission. In the
postclassical era of the Alexandrian scholars, when accentual notation
was for the first time becoming canonical, it was observed that rhapsodes
maintained in their recitations certain idiosyncratic accent patterns that
did not match current pronunciation.16 We now know from cognate
accentual patterns in Indo-European languages other than Greek that
these aspects of rhapsodic pronunciation are deeply archaicsurely the
heritage of Homeric and Hesiodic diction.17 To repeat, there seems no
way for these patterns to be preserved textually from the archaic period,
and we are left with the conclusion that the rhapsodes were much more
than mere memorizers of texts.
True, the rhapsodes were not oral poets in the sense that this concept
is defined by Parry and Lord on the basis of their fieldwork on South
Slavic traditions: by the time of Plato rhapsodes seem to have been per
formers only, whereas the oral poet technically performs while he
16 Wackcmagel 1953.1103.
17 Wackemagel p. 1103.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

41

composes, composes while he performs. Looking beyond Yugoslavia,


however, we find oral poetic traditions in other cultures where the factor
of performance has become separated from that of compositionas
revealed, for example, in the Old Provencal contrast of trobador (com
poser) and joglar (performer). There are also oral traditions, like those
of the Somali, where composition may precede performance without any
aid of writing. These and other examples are discussed in Ruth
Finnegans Oral Poetry,16 which is useful for its adjustments on the ParryLord theories, though it sometimes confuses oral poetry with the kind of
free-associative improvisations that mark certain types of modem poetry
in the West.
Improvise" is a particularly pernicious word when applied to tradi
tional oral poetryincluding that of Homer and Hesiod. An oral poet
in a traditional society does not make things up," since his function is to
re-create the inherited values of those for whom he composes/performs.
As perhaps the most striking available example, I cite the Vedas of the
Indie peoplesa vast body of sacred poems displaying the strictest
imaginable regulation in form as well as contentand formalizing the
ideology of the priestly class without perceptible change for well over two
millennia. It should be added that, despite the availability of writing, the
authority of the Vedas to this day abides in the spoken word, not in any
written text. Moreover, the Vedas have been transmitted unchanged, as
a fixed text," for all these years by way of mnemonic techniques that had been
part of the oral tradition.19 Given the authority of the Homeric and
Hesiodic poems by the time they surface in the historical period of
Greece, it is not unreasonable to suppose that their rhapsodic transmis
sion entailed comparable mnemonic effortswhich need not have
required writing at all. In theory, though, written texts of the Homeric
and Hesiodic poems could have been generated at any timein fact,
many timesduring the lengthy phase of rhapsodic transmission.
In the case of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, composition and proli
feration need not have been separate factors. It is not as if a composi
tion had to evolve into perfection before it was disseminated throughout
the city-states. Rather, in view of the pan-Hellenic status ultimately
achieved by the Homeric and Hesiodic poems, it is more likely that their
composition and proliferation were combined factors. These poems, it
appears, represent the culmination of compositional trends that were
reaching their ultimate form, from the eighth century onward, in the
context of competitive performances at pan-Hellenic festivals and other
,H Finnegan 1977.73-87.
19 Kiparsky 1976.99-102.

42

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

such events. By way of countless such performances for over two centu
ries, each recomposition at each successive performance could become
less and less variable. Such gradual crystallization into what became set
poems would have been a direct response to the exigencies of a panHellenic audience.20
Recalling the testimony of Herodotus and others to the effect that
Homer and Hesiod provide a systematization of values common to all
Greeks, we may go so far as to say that Homer" and Hesiod" are them
selves the cumulative embodiment of this systematizationthe ultimate
poetic response to pan-Hellenic audiences from the eighth century
onward. An inevitable consequence of such evolution from composi
tional trends to set poems is that the original oral poet, who composes
while he performs and performs while he composes, evolves with the pas
sage of time into a mere performer. We must not be too quick to
dismiss the importance of the rhapsode, however: he must have been a
master of mnemonic techniques inherited directly from oral poets.
Even in such minute details as accentual patterns, as we have seen, he
preserved the heritage of a genuine oral poet. The etymology of
rhapsaidos stitcher of songs reveals a traditional conceit of the oral poet
as overtly expressed by the poet himself in cognate Indo-European
poetic traditions.21 There is, then, no demotion implicit in the formal
distinction between rhapsaidos and aoidos singerwhich is the word
used by the Homeric and Hesiodic poems to designate the genuinely
oral poet.22 It is simplistic and even misleading to contrast, as many have
done, the creative" aoidos with the reduplicating" rhapsaidos. We must
keep in mind that even the traditional oral poet does not really create
in the modem sense of authorship; rather, he re-creates for his listeners
the inherited values that serve as foundations for their society. Even the
narrative of epic, as we have noted, is a vehicle for re-creating traditional
values, with a set program that will not deviate in the direction of per
sonal invention, away from the traditional plots known and expected by
the audience.23 If, then, the aoidos is an upholder of such set poetic ways,
he is not so far removed from the rhapsaidos as from the modem concept
of poet.
The more significant difference between aoidos and rhapsaidos lies in
the nature of their respective audiences. The rhapsaidos, as we have seen,
recites the Homeric or Hesiodic poems to Hellenes at largeto listeners
from various city-states who congregate at events like pan-Hellenic
20 Further discussion in N 1979a. 5-9.
21 Durante 1976.177-179.
22 For internal evidence, see e.g. N 1979a.l5-20.
25 . N pp. 265-267.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

43

festivalsand what he recites remains unchanged as he travels from city


to city. On the other hand, the typical aoidos as portrayed in, say, the
Odyssey (ix 3-11) sings to a strictly local community. As the studies of
Wilhelm RadlofF concerning the oral poetry of the Kirghiz peoples have
made clear, the oral poet in a local situation will of course adjust his
composition/performance to the nature of his audience. For example,
the presence of rich and distinguished members of society will prompt
the Kirghiz akyn poet to introduce episodes reflecting traditions that
glorify their families.24 Now, the local audiences of Greece in the eighth
century must have challenged the poet with a veritable kaleidoscope of
repertoires; each city would have had its own poetic traditions, often rad
ically different from those of other cities. We have a reference to the
regional variety of poetic repertoires in the Iliad (XX 249).25 Moreover,
even the traditions of any given city could change radically with succes
sive changes in population or government; the genre of ktisis 'founda
tion* poetry seems particularly vulnerable.26
The obvious dilemma of the oral poet is that each of the various local
traditions in his repertoire will have validity only when it is performed in
the appropriate locale. With the surge of intercommunication among
the cities from the eighth century onward, the horizons for the poets
travels would continually expand, and thus the regional differences
between one audience and the next would become increasingly pro
nounced. The greater the regional differences, the greater the gap
between what one community and another would hold to be true. What
was held to be true by the inhabitants of one place may well have been
false to those of another. What is true and false will keep shifting as the
poet travels from place to place, and he may even resort to using alterna
tive traditions as a foil for the one that he is re-creating for his audience.
This device is still reflected in Homeric Hymn 1, where the poet declares
in his prayer to Dionysus that the god was not born in Drakanos or in
Ikaria or in Naxos or by the banks of the Alpheios or even in Thebes
(verses 1-5), and that those who claim any of these proveniences are
pseudomenoi lying (6); he goes on to say that the god was really born at
the mountain Nyse (6-9; compare Hymn 26.5). The localization of this
Nyse is a separate problem, and the point now is simply that various legi
timate local traditions are here being discounted as false in order to legi
timize the one tradition that is acceptable to the poets audience.

24 Radloff 1885.xviii-xix. See also Marlin 1989.6-7.


25 See pp. 27-28.
26 N 1979a.l40-141,273.

44

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

There is a parallel poetic device that inaugurates the Theogpny of


Hesiod, at verses 22-34, which we will understand only by first examining
the testimony of Homeric poetry about poetry itself. In the Odyssey Odys
seus himself tells stories like an oral poet who has to keep adjusting his
composition /performance to the exigencies of his diverse audiences,27
and in such contexts the resourceful hero is explicitly likened to a poet
(xi 368, xviii 518). It is in the manner of a poet that he tells his "Cretan
lies (compare xvii 514, 518-521). As he finishes telling one such Cretan
tale to Penelope, Odysseus is described in these words:

Odysseyix 203
He spoke, assimilating many falsehoods Utsedea) to make them look like gen
uine things.

Earlier, Eumaios had described other wanderers who, just as the dis
guised wanderer Odysseus is doing now, would come to Penelope with
stories about Odysseus that are calculated to raise her hopes:

'.

Odysseyiv 124-125
It's no use! Wanderers in need of food
are liars [pseudontai], and they are unwilling to tell true things
[alethea mthesasthm\.

Odysseus himself fits this description: before telling his major tale of the
Odyssey in the court of Alkinoos, he asks the king to let him eat first,
since his gaster belly is making him forget his tales of woe until it is
filled with food (vii 215-221). Such a gambit would be typical of an oral
poet who is making sure that he gets an appropriate preliminary reward
for entertaining his audience.28
The root for forget in this last passage is leth- (lethdnei vii 221), the
functional opposite of mne- remember, have in mind, a root that can
also mean have the mnemonic powers of a poet in the diction of
archaic poetry. Mnemosne Memory, mother of the Muses (Theogony
54, 135, 915), is the very incarnation of such powers. The conventional
27 N 1979a. 233-237.
28 Cf. Svenbro 1976.50-59. See also pp. 274-275 below.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

45

designation of poetic powers by mne- has been documented by Marcel


Detienne, who also shows that the word a-leth-es true is thus originally a
double-negative expression of truth by utay of poetry,29 The wanderers who
are described in the passage above as being unwilling to tell the truth,
alethea mthesasthai, are cast in the mold of an oral poet who compro
mises poetic truth for the sake of his own survival. Similarly in the court
of Alkinoos, Odysseus as poet is implicitly threatening to withhold the
truth of poetry by explicitly blaming his gaster belly.30
With these passages in mind, we come finally to Theogony 22-34, retel
ling Hesiods encounter with the Muses. These goddesses, as daughters
of Mnemosiine Memory, not only confer the mnemonic powers of poe
try on the poet of the Theogony but also offer to endow his poetry with
truth, as they themselves announce to him:
, * , ,
,
, ,
Theogony 26-28
Shepherds living in the fields, base objects of reproach, mere
bellies [gastiresV.
We know how to say many falsehoods [bseiidea] that look like genuine

things,
but we can also, whenever we are willing, proclaim true things
[alethea gerusasthai1.

Truth," which itinerant would-be oral poets are unwilling to tell


because of their need for survival (oud' ethelousin at Odyssey xiv 124-125),
may be willingly conferred by the Muses (rthdmen). We see here what
can be taken as a manifesto of pan-Hellenic poetry, in that the poet
Hesiod is to be freed from being a mere bellyone who owes his sur
vival to his local audience with its local traditions: all such local tradi
tions are psetldea falsehoods in face of the alethea true things that the
Muses impart specially to Hesiod. The conceit inherent in the panHellenic poetry of Hesiod is that this overarching tradition is capable of
achieving something that is beyond the reach of individual local tradi
tions. As in the Homeric Hymn 1 to Dionysus, the mutually incompatible
traditions of various locales are rejected as falsehoods, in favor of one
single tradition that can be acceptable to all. In the case of Hymn 1 this
29 Detienne 1973.
50 Svenbro 1976.54; for other passages concerning the poetic gaster 'belly, see N
1979a.229-233,261 1 ln4.

46

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

goal seems to be achieved by assigning the remotest imaginable tradi


tional place of birth to the god (Nyse is pictured as M
near the streams of
Aigyptos, verse 9). In the case of the Theogpny we see this sort of process
in a global dimension: the many local theogonies of the various citystates are to be superseded by one grand Olympian scheme.
As we have noted already, the Olympus of Hesiodic and Homeric poe
try is a pan-Hellenic construct that elevates the gods beyond their local
ized attributes. It is a historical fact about Greece in the archaic period
that whatever can be classified as religious practice or ideology was
confined to the local level, and a survey of the attested evidence, as
gleaned from sources like Pausanias or epichoric inscriptions, reveals
clearly that each city had a very distinct pattern of cults. A given god as
worshiped in one city could be radically different from a god bearing the
same name as he was worshiped in another city.
Under these circumstances, the evolution of most major gods from
most major cities into the integrated family at Olympus amounts to a syn
thesis that is not just artistic but also political, comparable with the evolu
tion of the pan-Hellenic games known as the Olympics, another crucial
phenomenon originating in the eighth century. As in any political pro
cess, the evolution of the pan-Hellenic poems would afford some vic
tories and many concessions on the part of each region: some one
salient local feature of a god may become accepted by all audiences,
while countless other features that happen to contradict the traditions of
other cities will remain unspoken. For example, Cythera and Cyprus
may well be recognized as places that the newborn Aphrodite first visited
(the narrative specifies that she did so in that order, see Theogony
192-193), but very little else about their local lore will ever come to the
surface in Hesiodic and Homeric poetry.
The oral poet as represented by the poetry itself is one who can sing
both epics and theogonies, as we learn in this description of the poetic
repertory of Phemios:
* ,
Odyssey i 338

the deeds of men and gods, upon which the singers confer glory fkleos]

So also in this description of a generic poet:



Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

47


Theogpny 99-101

But when a poet,


of the Muses, sings the elories [kleos plurali of earlier

attendant [therdpon]
men
and the blessed gods who hold Olympus.

In view of the diversity that existed among the cities, an oral poet would
have needed for his repertoire a staggering variety of traditions for com
posing epics and theogonies, which could in the end be rejected as
psedea falsehoods by the poets of the ultimate epic and ultimate theogony, Homer and Hesiod. Pan-Hellenic poetry can still tell us how an
actual epic was being composed by Phemios in the Odyssey (i 326-327),
or how Hermes composed a theogony for Apollo in the Hymn to Hermes
(425-433). Yet such pan-Hellenic poetry, ascribed to the ultimate poets,
is itself no longer oral poetry in the strict sense: it is being performed by
rhapsodes. In the case of the Homeric poems, the compositions have
even become too long for any single performance.31 Moreover, oral poe
try, at least in the form represented by the medium itself, has not
survived. The emergence of a monumental marvel like the uniquely
truthful and pan-Hellenic Theogony of Hesiod from among coundess
deceitful and local theogonies of oral poets entails not only the crystal
lization of the one but also the extinction of the many.
Hesiod, Poet of the Theogony
It would be simplistic to assume that the truth of the Muses about
the genesis of all the gods the Greeks have in common would ever be
conferred upon just any poet. Hesiods Theogony in fact presents its com
poser as the ultimate poet. The very name Hesiodos at Theogpny 22 means
so m eth ing like he who emits the Voice. The root *jeh,of Hesi- recurs
in the expression ossan hieisai emitting a [beautiful/immortal/lovely]
voice, describing the Muses themselves at Theogony 10/ 43/ 65 / 67, while
the root *h2uod- of -odos recurs as *h2ud- in aude voice, designating the
power of poetry conferred by the Muses upon the poet at Theogony 31.32
31 N 1979a. 18-20.
32 N 1979a.296-297, following DELG 137-138,417. On possible explanations for the fact
that there is no trace of laryngeal *h2 in such forms as Hesiodos, see Peters 1980.14 and
Vine 1982.144-145. Another possible factor: laryngeals (*hl, *hj. *h,) are frequently' lost
without trace in the second half of compounds (see Beekes 1969.242-243 for a list of exam
ples: also Mayrhofer 1986.125.129,140).

48

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

In this way Hestodos embodies the poetic function of the very Muses who
give him his powers.33
Also, the generic poets epithet, therpn [attendant] of the Muses
(Theogony 100), literally identities Hesiod with these divinities and impli
citly entails not only his ritual death but also his subsequent worship as
cult hero.34 The poetic word therpn, conventionally translated as atten
dant, is apparently borrowed from an Anatolian word, attested as Hittite
tarpan-aUi- ritual substitute.35 We may compare the generic warriors
epithet, therpn [attendant] of Ares" (IUad II 110, VI 67, for instance),
which identities the hero with the god of war at the moment of his
death.36 Although the Homeric poems offer littie direct testimony about
the cults of dead warriors, they reveal extensive indirect references to
the ideology of hero cults. The actual evidence for the existence of hero
cults in the eighth century and thereafter comes from archaeology,37
and there is reason to believe that the historically attested cults of the
Homeric heroes are no mere reflex of Homeric poetry; rather, both the
cults and the poetry represent interacting aspects of a broader
phenomenon.38 By the same token, it appears that an ideology reflecting
the cult of the poet Hesiod is built into the poetry of Hesiod.39
This statement would of course be an absurdity were it not for the fact
that the very identity of Hesiod within his poetry is consistently deter
mined by the traditions that are the foundation of this poetry. As we are
about to see time and again, the persona of Hesiod as reflected by his
poetry is purely generic, not historical. This is not to say that Hesiod is a
fiction: his personality, as it functions within his poetry, is just as tradi
tional as the poetry itself, and he is no more a fiction than any other
aspect of Hesiodic poetry.40 A word more suitable than fiction" is
"mythprovided we understand genuine mythmaking to be a tradi
tional expression of a given social groups concept of truth.41
33 For similar implications as built into the name Homma, see N pp. 297-300.
34 N p. 297.
33 Van Brock 1959. Further details at pp. 129-130 below.
36 N pp. 292-295. Cf. p. 135n58 below.
37 Snodgrass 1971.191-193,398-399.
38 See pp. 9-11 above; see also N 1979a. 115 28n4.
39 N pp. 296-297.
401 do not deny the notion of poets within a tradition, as advocated by Griffith
1983.58n82. I am not arguing generally, as Griffith claims, that tradition creates the poet,
but I am arguing specifically that the pan-Hellenic tradition of oral poetry appropriates the
poet, potentially transforming even historical figures into generic ones who merely
represent the traditional functions of their poetry. To put it another way; the poet, by vir
tue of being a transmitter of tradition, can become absorbed by the tradition (detailed
examples in N 1985a).
41 See pp. 8ff.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

49

Of course, Hesiodic poetry refers to itself not as the gradual evolution


of poetic traditions into compositions on a pan-Hellenic scale but,
rather, as the one-time creation of one ultimate poet whose selfidentification with the Muses, for him both a bane and a blessing, makes
him a cult hero. Besides the poets name and the epithet therdpon of
the Muses, the most striking sign of Hesiods stance as hero is drama
tized in the scene describing his first encounter with the Muses. The
goddesses are antagonistic to the poets local origins but aid him anyway
by transforming his repertoire from localized falsehoods into the
truth" that all Hellenes can accept; they give Hesiod a skeptron staff,
scepter as an emblem of his transformation ffom shepherd to poet
(Theogpny 30).
This narrative is typical of traditional Greek myths that motivate the
cult of a poet as hero. In the Life of Archilochus tradition, for example,
the diffusion of which can be historically connected with the actual cult
of Archilochus as hero on his native island of Paros ffom the archaic
period onward,42 we find another story about the poet and the Muses.
The paraphrase that follows is from the Mnesiepes Inscription (Archi
lochus T 4 Tarditi). On a moonlit night young Archilochus is driving a
cow toward the city ffom a countryside region of Paros known as the
Leimones Meadows when he comes upon some seemingly rustic women,
whom he proceeds to antagonize with mockery.43 The disguised Muses
respond playfully to his taunts and ask him to trade away his cow. Agree
ing to do so if the price is right, Archilochus straightaway falls into a
swoon. When he awakens, the rustic women are gone, and so, too, is the
cow; but in its place Archilochus finds a lyre that he takes home as an
emblem of his transformation ffom cowherd to poet
The similarities between Archilochus and Hesiod extend further. As a
clue, we note that the epithet utherapn of the Muses is applied to Archi
lochus precisely in the context of the story retelling the poets death
(Delphic Oracle 4 PW). Then again, just as Archilochus was worshiped
as cult hero in his native Paros, so was Hesiod in Askrauntil his home
land was obliterated by the neighboring city of Thespiai, and the reputed
remains of the poet were transferred by the refugees from Askra to a
new cult precinct at Orkhomenos, a rival of Thespiai (Aristotle Constitu
tion of the Orkhomenians F 565 Rose; Plutarch by way of Proclus commen
tary). According to another tradition, contradicting the one emanating
ffom Orkhomenos (Plutarch Banquet of the Seven Sages 162c), Hesiod was
42 N 1979a.305-308.
43 Cf. Herodotus 5.83 for a reference to the ritual insulting of local women by choral
groups.

50

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

buried and venerated as hero in the cult precinct of Zeus Nemeios at


Oineon in Ozolian Lokris (Contest of Homer and Hesiod p. 234 Allen; cf.
Thucydides 3.96).44 In the myth that serves to validate this tradition, the
murdered poets corpse is said to have been originally cast into the sea,
only to be carried ashore on the third day by dolphins (Contest of Homer
and Hesiod p. 234.229-236 Allen)a narrative scheme that is particularly
appropriate to a cult hero in whose honor a festival is founded, as in the
case of Melikertes and the Isthmian Games.45
In short, the lore about Hesiod fits a general pattern that is charac
teristic of a local cult hero.46 The parallelism of Hesiod and Archilochus
in this regard becomes even more noteworthy. The local cult of Archi
lochus at Paros, as we have seen, is the actual source of the myth about
the poets transformation from cowherd into poet. In the case of
Hesiods transformation from shepherd into poet, however, the myth is
built into the Theogpny itself. Since the hero cult of Hesiod is just as
much a historical fact as the cult of Archilochus, and since both these
cults are deeply archaic in nature, it is possible that the Hesiodic cult is
ultimately a locus of diffusion for the Hesiodic poems, just as the Archilochean cult seems to be for the Archilochean vita.
Moreover, the Archilochean vita tradition may well have been the
actual context for the preservation of Archilochean poetry itself, with a
narrative superstructure about the poets life serving as a frame for
quoting" the poets poems; there is a comparable pattern of quoting
Aesops fables in the Life of Aesop tradition.47 This arrangement is in fact
suggested by the format of the Mnesiepes Inscription (Archilochus T 4
Tarditi), the Parian document that proclaims the hero cult of Archi
lochus and then proceeds to tell the story of his life (starting with the
incident of the cow and the lyre). Granted, this document is late (third
century B.C.) and may reflect literary mannerisms characteristic of the
Hellenistic era. It is also true that the genre of any archaic poets vita in
general tends to degeneratefrom traditional narratives that are paral
lel to the poems into what can only be called fictions that are arbitrarily
derived from the poems.48 Still, the program of the Mnesiepes Inscrip
tion is to document and motivate cult practices in a sacred precinct that
44 Commentary in Pfister 1909 1:231 n861.
45 On which see Pfister pp. 214-215n788. For more on the myths concerning the death
and revival of Hesiod: Scodel 1980, especially with reference to the epigram in Life of
Hesiod p. 51.9-10 Wilamowitz (1916), comparable with Plato Comicus F 68 Kock, a passage
concerning the death and revival of Aesop. More on the life of Aesop tradition in N
1979a.279-316.
46 Brelich 1958.322.
47 N 1979a.279-288.
48 N p. 306.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

51

is actually named after Archilochus (the Aikhilokheion), and in such an


ancestral religious context invention seems out of the question.
T h e relevance of this inform ation a b o u t A rchilochus to H esiod
becomes clear when we consider the name of the man to whom Apollo is
said to have given the command to institute the hero cult of Archi
lochus: Mnesi-tpes, meaning he who remembers the word(s) [epos]'. It
seems as if the foundation of the poets cult goes hand in hand with
remembering the poets words.49 Given the historical fact that the poems
of Archilochus, like those of Homer and Hesiod, were recited at public
competitions by rhapsodes (Athenaeus 620c, Clearchus F 92 Wehrli,
Plato Ion 531a and 532a), we may envision a pattern of evolution parallel
to that of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems. In other words, the oral
poetic traditions of Paros could eventually have become crystallized into
a fixed collection of poems retrojected as creations of the ultimate poet
Archilochus and disseminated by way of rhapsodic transmission in the
context of the poets hero cult. We may directly compare the Homeridai
sons of Homer (Strabo 14.1.33-35 C 645; Pindar Nemean 2.1, with scho
lia; Plato Phaedrus 252b; Contest of Homer and Hesiod p. 226.13-15 Allen)50
and the Krephuleioi sons of Kreophulos (Strabo 14.1.18 C638; cf. Cal
limachus Epigram 6 Pfeiffer),51 organizations of reciters whose very
names imply that their founding fathers were cult heroes.52
In this connection a brief word is in order about a pan-Hellenic ten
dency inherent in all archaic Greek poetrynot just the Homeric and
Hesiodic. It is a historical fact that each major poetic genre in the
archaic period tends to appropriate the surface structure of a single
dialect to the exclusion of all others. For example, the elegiac poetry of
even the Doric areas is characterized by Ionic diction, as we see in the
poems of Theognis of Megara and Tyrtaeus of Sparta; conversely, the
diction of choral lyric will be a synthetic form of Doric even for Ionic
poets like Simonides and Bacchylides.
Before we consider any further the evolution of the local Boeotian
poetic traditions of Hesiod into the Ionic hexameters of the panHellenic Theogony, it is instructive to ask this related question: why
should the local Doric traditions of a city like Megara evolve into the
Ionic elegiacs of a Theognis? The answer is given by the poetry itself:*
*N p.304ff4n3.
50 For other references to the Homeridai of Chios, see Acusilaus FGH 2 F 2, Hellanicus
FGH 4 F 20 (both by way of Harpocration s.v.); Isocrates Heim 65; Plato Republic 599d, Ion
530c.
51 The basic testimonia are conveniently available in Allen 1924.228-229 and Burkert
1972.76 10. Cf. N 1979a. 165-166.
58 Brelich 1958.320-321; cf. N pp. 8-9.

52

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

the goal of this poetry, the poet says, is to be heard by all Hellenes every
where (Theognis 22-23, 237-254). It seems as if such a goal can be
reached only with the evolution of the local poetry into a form that is
performable at pan-Hellenic events. In the case of the elegiac, that form
would be Ionic. And such evoludon entails, again, the eventual crystalli
zation of oral poetic traditions into the kind of fixed poems that are the
repertoire of rhapsodes. Who, then, is the poet? As we shall observe in
the next section, Theognis toolike Archilochus and other masters of
lyricmay be considered an idealized creation of the poetry in which he
has an integral functionand which he is credited with creating.
There is an important difference, however, between the poems of a
Hesiod, on the one hand, and of a Theognis or an Archilochus, on the
other. The difference is one of degree: these three figures, among
others, seemingly have in common an intent to address all Hellenes, but
Hesiod has far more authority than all the other poets. A Theognis or
an Archilochus speaks from the perspective of his own city, though the
localized aspects of the city are shaded over and the pan-Hellenic aspects
are highlighted. In the case of Hesiod, however, the perspective is
meant to be that of all cities. This transcendence is of course facilitated
by the historical fact that the figure of Hesiod has no native city to claim
him, since Askra was destroyed by Thespiai. Because Askra is no more,
its traditions need not infringe on those of other cities. By allowing
Hesiod to speak as a native of Askra, the pan-Hellenic tradition is in
effect making him a native of all Greek cities, as we shall see in our sur
vey of the Works and Days. The Theogony, too, expresses this transcen
dence, in two interrelated ways: the form in which the Muses are invoked
and the nature of the gift that they confer on Hesiod.
We begin with the second. Whereas the mark of Archilochus
transformation from cowherd to poet in his nighttime encounter with
the Muses is a lyre, Hesiods transformation from shepherd to poet in his
likewise nighttime encounter {Theogony 10) is marked by their gift of a
skeptron staff, scepter (verse 30). There has been much bruitless debate
over such questions as whether this gift implies that Hesiod had not
learned how to play the lyre, and not enough attention has been paid to
the implications of the word skeptron as it is actually used in archaic poe
try. The skeptron is a staff held by kings {Iliad I 279, II 86), by Chryses as
priest of Apollo (I 15, 28), by Teiresias as prophet {Odyssey xi 90), by
kervkes heralds {Ilia d VII 277), or generally by one who stands up to
speak in the agora assembly {Iliad III 218, XXIII 568) .5S53
53 For an Indie parallel to the skeptron staff, scepter: Minkowski 1986.4978.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

53

Perhaps the most revealing example of such an agora is in the Iliad


(XV11I 497), where it is presented as the context of an archetypal neikos
quarrel (497) visualized on that timeless microcosm of a frozen motion
picture, the Shield of Achilles.54 While the two nameless litigants are
seen formally quarreling with one another, partisans of each side shout
their preferences {Iliad XVIII 502), and each of the seated gerontes eld
ers at the assembly waits for his turn to stand up with skeptnm in hand
and speak in favor of one side or the other (XVIII 505-506). As each
elder speaks, taking the staff from the attending heralds, he is described
as rendering dike judgment/justice (XVIII 506); moreover, a prize
awaits the one who speaks dike in the most straight manner (XVIII
508).
Such an elder is the equivalent of the generic basiled* king as
described in the Theogony (80-93). Moreover, the kings function of
speaking dike at the agora assembly is in fact a gift of the Muses, as the
Theogony itself tells us. The just king is imbued, from childhood on, by
the Muses {Theogony 81-84), and he decides what is themis divine law
(85) by way of straight dike (plural) (86)in the context of the agora
assembly ( 86, 89, 92).
In sum, the skeptnm given to Hesiod by the Muses indicates that the
poet will speak with the authority of a kingan authority that emanates
from Zeus himself ( Theogony 96; Iliad I 238-239, IX 97-99). The point is,
just as Zeus has authority over all other gods, so also the poet who for
malizes this authority by telling how it all happened thereby implicitly
has authority over all other poets.
Next we turn to the invocation of the Muses in the Theogony. Our first
impression may be that Hesiod might not fit the image of a poet whose
authority transcends that of all other poets. He is situated in Askra
(Works and Days 640), a remote Boeotian settlement at the foot of Mount
Helikon, which in turn is described as the local cult place of the Muses
{Theogony 1-7). Such a localization, as well as the poets selfidentification as Hesiod, has conventionally been interpreted as a primi
tive assertion of individualism in contrast with Homers elevated
anonymity.
This is to misunderstand the inherited conventions of the Theogony.
As we can see from the theogony performed by Hermes himself to the
accompaniment of his lyre in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 425-433, the
traditional format of such a composition is that of a prelude (the Classi
cal Greek word for which is prooimion). There is considerable internal
M On the connection of this neikos quarrel with the one between Achilles and Agamemnon in Iliad I: N 1979a. 109, following Muellner 1976.105-106.

54

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

evidence for this format in the actual words used by poetry in referring
to it.55 A prominent example is the expression amboldden playing a
prelude in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 426. It is crucial to note that the
Homeric Hymns, including the Hymn to Hermes, are also preludes (thus
Thucydides at 3.104.4 refers to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo as a prooimion).
The conventional closure of the Hymns, metabesomai dllon es hmnon (as
at Hymn to Aphrodite 293), literally means I will move on to the rest of my
song (not to another hymn, as most translators render it).56 The rest
of a performance introduced by a prelude may be technically any
poetic /musical form, but the one form that is specified by the Homeric
Hymns themselves is the erga/ergmata deeds of heroes (Hymn 31.19,
32.19)which would be some form of epic (cf. klea photon . . . | hemithen
glories [kleos plural] of men who were demigods at Hymn 32.18-19) or
catalogue poetry (cf. genos andron \ hemithen genesis of men who were
demigods at Hymn 31.18-19).
Still, the fact is that the Iliad and the Odyssey have survived without any
fixed preludes, although the availability of such preludes is documented
by Crates of Pergamon (Vita Homeri Romana p. 32 Wilamowitz). The
prelude is the prime contextpractically the only contextfor the
archaic poet to identify himself, speak in his own persona, and describe
the circumstances of his performance (cf. Theognis 22; Aleman PMG
39); even in choral lyric it is the prelude in which the first person is more
appropriate to the poet than to the chorus. Thus the notorious distinc
tion, claimed by generations of scholars, between Hesiodic selfidentification and Homeric anonymity is invalidif indeed the
self-identification of Hesiod is happening within a prelude. Moreover,
the self-identification of Homer is attested in another genuine prelude,
the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (166-176).57
The proposition that the Theogony can be classified, from a purely for
mal point of view, as a complex prelude that invokes all the gods can be
tested by adducing the larger Homeric Hymns as simplex preludes, each
of which invokes one god. Admittedly these Hymns are unwieldy as func
tional preludes precisely because of their sheer size, and there may well
be an element of ars gratia artis in their evolution. Since preludes tradi
tionally appear in a variety of metrical forms,58 the fact that the Homeric
55 Cf. Koller 1956.
56 Detailed discussion in Koller pp. 174-182. Koller p. 177 stresses that hmnos is the
totality of performance; cf. *humnos of the song at Odyssey viii 429. O f course,
the rest o f the song" that supposedly follows each of the Homeric Hymns may be a stylized
formal convention rather than an actual sequel.
57 N 1979a. 5-6,8-9.
58 Koller 1956.170-171.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

55

Hymns were composed in hexameter suggests that they were closely


affected by the specific form of the epic poetry that they preceded;
moreover, if the epic compositions were to evolve into monumental size,
then so could the preludes that introduced the epic performances.
Despite the monumental size of the larger Hymns, however, the point
remains that they maintain the traditional program of a functional
prelude, one that is worthy of pan-Hellenic performance. This program
can be divided into five stages:
1. The invocation proper; naming of the god.
2. Application of the gods epithets, conveying either explicitly or impli
citly his/her efficacy on the local level of cult.
3. A description of the gods ascent to Olympus, whereby he/she achieved
pan-Hellenic recognition.
4. A prayer to the god that he /she be pleased with the recognition that
has been accorded him /her so far in the performance.
5. Transition to the rest of the performance.

These fives stages may or may not be explicit in any given Hymn. For
instance, in the shorter Hymn to Hermes (18.5-9) the admission of
Hermes $s an Olympian god (stage 3) is suggested by way of mentioning
the delay of his admission during the confinement of Maia in her cave;
in the longer Hymn to Hermes (4.5-9), by contrast, the closely correspond
ing mention of this delay is followed by a lengthy narrative that
elaborates on the god's subsequent admission. This narrative in the
longer Hymn takes us all the way to verse 578, where we finally reach
stage 4; by contrast, stage 4 in the shorter Hymn to Hermes is reached by
verse 10.
Such an example of extreme length and brevity in two Homeric
Hymns to the same god, achieved by expansion and compression, respec
tively (the mechanics of both phenomena are a clear indication of oral
poetics),59 can be compared with the length of the Theogony and the
brevity of Homeric Hymn 25. Technically, both Hymn 25 and the Theogony
are hymns to the Muses, and the first six hexameters of the sevenhexameter prelude have direct formal analogues in the longer:
Hymn
Hymn
Hymn

25.1
25.2-5
25.6

Theogony
Theogony
Theogony

1
94-97
963

59 On the potential for expansion and compression in oral poetics, sec Lord
1960.99-123.

56

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

Whereas the short hymn is a simplex prelude that motivates the


genesis of the Muses, the long hymn is a complex prelude that first
motivates the genesis of the Muses, who are then invoked to motivate the
genesis of all the gods, which is the theogony proper. But from verse
964 onward, the Theogony is no longer formally a theogony, in that the
subject matter shifts from the theon genos genesis of gods (as at Theogony
44, 105; cf. 115) to the genesis of demigods bom of gods who mated
with mortals (cf. Theogony 965-968); the latter theme, which amounts to
catalogue poetry about heroes and heroines, is actually expressed as
genos andron \ hemitheon genesis of men who were demigods at Homeric
Hymn 31.18-19a theme to which Hymn 31 announces itself as a formal
prelude.
To repeat, verses 1-963 of the Theogony are from the standpoint of
form a hymn to the Muses, serving as a prelude to the catalogue of
heroes and heroines that survives at verses 965-1020 of the Theogony
and that interconnects with Hesiod fragment 1 MW.60 The significant
modification in this hymn to the Muses is that it becomes primarily a
monumental hymn to Zeus and all the Olympian gods; thus at stage 4,
where the poet may be expected to pray that the Muses be pleased with
what has been composed so far, he in fact prays to win the pleasure of all
the Olympians generated in his Theogony.
Thus verses 1-963 of the Theogony are not a single, but rather a com
posite, hymn in comparison with most Homeric Hymns. The hymn
proper is at verses 36-103, culminating at 104 in a separate stage 4 in
which the poet prays exclusively to the Muses; then, starting at verse 105,
the expected stage 5 of transition (to whatever composition might follow
the prelude) is implicitly postponed and replaced by a reapplied hymn
to the Muses running all the way to verse 962, followed at last by a reap
plied but cumulative stage 4 at verse 963. We may compare Hymn to
Apollo 165-166, a stage 4 appropriate to Apollo as he is worshiped in the
pan-Ionian context of his birthplace Delos: the poet first prays to Apollo
and then greets the Deliades, a chorus of female singers/dancers61 who
seem to be a local manifestation of the Muses, with a formula that else
where conveys a stage 4 prayer. Then, at verses 177-178, the expected
stage 5 of transition is explicitly postponed and followed at verses
179-544 by a reapplied hymn to Apollo as he is worshiped in the panHellenic context of his abode at Delphi; there is a reapplied stage 4 at
verse 545, where the poet again prays to Apollo, followed at last by the
stage 5 of transition at verse 546.
60 On the interconnection: N 1979a.213-214 3 n l, n3.
61 Cf. Thucydides 3.104.5.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

57

In the case of the Theogony, verses 105-962 amount to an expanded


variant of the compressed hymn at verses 36-103, just as verses 179-544
in the Hymn to Apollo amount to an expanded variant of the compressed
hymn at verses 1-165. There is an important formal difference, how
ever, between the compressed version at verses 36-103 of the Theogony
and the expanded version of verses 105-962: whereas both are simul
taneously a prelude and a theogonyjust like the composition per
formed by Hermes in Hymn to Hermes 425-433the compressed version
is more of a prelude and the expanded version is more of a theogony.
The expanded version is the Theogony proper, told by Hesiod in his
own persona and retelling" what the Muses had told him. The
compressed version, on the other hand, is told only indirectly: in this
case the theogony related by the Muses to Hesiod is merely paraphrased,
as it were, in the context of describing what the goddesses sang as they
went up to Mount Olympus.
Verses 1-21 of the Theogony present yet another indirect version (thus
there are altogether three versions of theogony in the Theogony). Here,
too, the theogony related by the Muses is paraphrased, this first time in
the context of describing what the goddesses sang as they came down
from Mount Helikon. In this version the Muses are invoked as Helikonian (Theogony 1-2), not Olympian as everywhere else in the Theogony.
Moreover, the thematic order of the Muses* theogony, which they sing
and dance (Theogony 3-4) as they come down from the summit of Mount
Helikon, is the inverse of what they sing and dance (Theogony 70) as they
go up to the summit of Mount Olympus (which is stage 3 in the program
of a pan-Hellenic hymn).
In the first theogony, at Theogony 11-20, the Muses are described as
starting their narrative with Olympian Zeus (11) and moving their way
down" from the other Olympian godsHera, Athena, Apollo, Artemis,
Poseidon (11-15)all the way to the previous divine generations
(16-19) and then to the primordial forces, Earth, Okeanos, Night (20).
These same Muses, after they encounter Hesiod at the foot of Mount
Helikon, are described in the second theogony (Theogony 36-52) as start
ing their narrative with Earth/Sky (45) and moving their way up to the
Olympian gods, culminadng with Zeus himself (47; the word deteron
next* here denotes merely the order of this theogony and therefore
does not slight the importance of Zeus). It is important that this narra
tive direction of the Muses* second theogony, which determines the
direction of Hesiods third and definitive theogony at verses 105-962,
corresponds to stage 3 in the program of a pan-Hellenic hymn, the
ascent to Olympus of the divinity who is being praised.
We see here a transformation of the Muses from local goddesses on
Mount Helikon into pan-Hellenic goddesses on Mount Olympus. As

58

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

they start their way down the slopes of Helikon, they are described as
enthen apomdmenai starting from there at Theogony 9corresponding
to enthen apomiimenos (same meaning) at Hymn to Apollo 29, where the
verse goes on to proclaim the transformation of Apollo from lord of his
native Delos into lord of all mankind. In their local setting the singing
and dancing Helikonian Muses resemble the Deliades of the Hymn to
Apollo. Like the Muses (for example, Hymn to Apollo 189-190), the
Deliades are Apollos attendants (157), and the poet seems to be praying
to them and Apollo together at stage 4 of his hymn (177-178). Further,
the Deliades, too, seem to sing and dance (cf. khoros at Thucydides
3.104.5; cf. also Euripides Herakles 687-690); it is as if the performances
of the Helikonian Muses and the Deliades were envisioned as lyric rather
than hexameter poetry.
Moreover, the relationship of Hesiod to the Helikonian Muses paral
lels the relationship of Homer to the Deliades (the Hymn to Apollo unmis
takably claims Homer as its composer).62 The self-dramatized encounter
of Homer with the Deliades leads to the poets promise that he will
spread their kleos glory by mentioning them in his poetry as he travels
throughout the cities of mankind (Hymn to Apollo 174-175; compare verse
156, where this kleos is already presented as a fait accompli); in other
words, the Deliades will have a place in pan-Hellenic poetry.63 Similarly,
the encounter of Hesiod with the Helikonian Muses leads to the poets
glorifying them with the Theogony, which is technically a pan-Hellenic
hymn to the Muses; in this way the local goddesses of Helikon are assimi
lated into the pan-Hellenic goddesses of Olympus.
We may also compare Hermes* miniature theogony as paraphrased in
the Hymn to Hermes 425-433; this theogony is technically a hymn to the
mother of the Muses, Mnemosune (429), who is described as the deity
presiding over and defined by the characteristics of Hermes (for the dic
tion, cf. Callimachus Hymn to Apollo 43). In the same way the Helikonian
Muses preside over and are defined by the characteristics of Hesiod
characteristics that they themselves had conferred upon him.
And here we finally see why it is essential for the Theogony that Hesiod
should have his local origins at the foot of Mount Helikon. As an expres
sion of the Helikonian Muses, he possesses characteristics that are
beyond the immediate sphere of the Olympian Muses. As we have
noticed, the goddesses confer upon him a staff (Theogony 30), an
emblem of authority that is the province of kings and that emanates
from Zeus himself. Also, as his very name Hesiodos proclaims, the Muses
62 N 1979a.5-6, 8-9.
63 N pp. 8-9.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

59

of Helikon endow the poet with aude (Theogony 31), a special voice that
enables him not only to sing a theogony (33-34) but also to tell the
future as well as the past (32). Whereas the generic protege of the
Olympian Muses and Apollo is an aoidos poet who composes the
equivalent of Homeric epos and hymns (cf. Homeric Hymn 25.2-3 and
Theogony 94-103), Hesiod as protege of the Helikonian Muses has the
powers not only of a poet but also of what the Greeks would call a kerux
herald and a mantis seer.
The Indo-European heritage of Greek poetry goes back to a phase
where the functions of poet/herald/seer are as yet undifferentiated.
Traces of such a phase survive not only in the characterization of Hesiod
as protege of the Helikonian Muses but also in the paradigm of Hermes
as protege of Mnemosune. By virtue of singing a theogony, Hermes is
said to be krainn authorizing the gods (Hymn to Hermes 427). The verb
kraino denotes sovereign authority as exercised by kings and as emanat
ing from Zeus himself.64 It conveys the notion that kings authorize the
accomplishment of something and confirm that it will be accomplished
(as at Odyssey viii 390). A cross-cultural survey of ritual theogonic tradi
tions throughout the world reveals that a basic function of a theogony is
to confirm the authority that regulates any given social group.65 By sing
ing a theogony and thus authorizing the gods, Hermes is in effect
confirming their authority.
Hermes later enters into an agreement with Apollo whereby the two
gods divide their functions between themselves, and in the process
Hermes gives Apollo his lyre along with the powers that go with it (Hymn
to Hermes 434-512), while Apollo gives Hermes a rhdbdos staff described
as epi-krainousa authorizing the themoi ordinances66 that Apollo has
learned from Zeus himself (531-532). While granting this much author
ization to Hermes, Apollo specifically excludes the sphere of divination
that is appropriate to the oracle at Delphi (533-549); but Apollo does
include the sphere of divination that is appropriate to the Bee Maidens
of Mount Pam assos (550-566). These Bee Maidens also kratnousin
authorize (559): when they are fed honey, they are in ecstasy and tell
aletheie truth (560-561), but they psedontai lie* when deprived of this
food (562-563). Such ecstatic divination is achieved with fermented
honeya pattem typical of an earlier phase when aoidos poet and
mantis seer were as yet undifferentiated.67 When the Bee Maidens are in
64 Bcnveniste 1969 2:35-42.
65 Cf. West 1966.1-16.
66 Cf. Hesychius s.v. , .

67Scheinberg 1979.16-28.

60

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

ecstasy, they krainousin authorize by telling of future things that will


really come to pass.
The division of attributes between Apollo and Hermes dramatizes the
evolutionary separation of poetic functions that are pictured as still
integral at the time when Hermes sang the theogony. But then Hermes
cedes the lyre to Apollo and confines himself to the primitive shepherds
pipe (Hymn to Hermes 511-512) so that Apollo can take over the sphere
of the aoidos poet. Apollo also takes over the sphere of the mdntis seer
on a highly evolved pan-Hellenic level (his oracle at Delphi), leaving to
Hermes the more primitive sphere of the mdntis seer as a local
exponent of the sort of aletheie truth that is induced by fermented
honey. But the newer gods dramatized affinity with the more primi
tive aspects of poetry and his actual inauguration of Apollos poetic art
by way of singing a theogony indicate that Hermesnot Apollois in
fact the older god, and that his authorizing staff and his authorizing
Bee Maidens are vestiges of an older and broader poetic realm. From a
historical point of view, Apollo and his Olympian Muses are the newer
gods: they represent a streamlining of this older realm into the newer
and narrower one of pan-Hellenic poetry.
Similarly, Hesiods relationship with the Helikonian Muses represents
an older and broader poetic realm that the poet then streamlines into
the newer and narrower one of a pan-Hellenic theogony by way of syn
thesizing the Helikonian with the Olympian Muses. The skeptron staff
and the prophetic voice that Hesiod receives from the Helikonian
Muses, speakers of both falsehoods and truth, are analogous to the Her
metic rhdbdos staff and Bee Maidens, likewise speakers of both false
hoods and truth. It seems as if the Muses of Olympus inherit the genre
of theogony from the Muses of Helikon, just as Apollo gets the lyre from
Hermes, composer of the first theogony. For a pan-Hellenic theogony
to happen, the Muses have to come down from Helikon and go up to
Olympus, through the intermediacy of Hesiod.
Just as Hermes is the archetypal kerux herald and mdntis 'seer', so
Hesiod embodies these two functions along with that of the aoidos poet
by way of the Helikonian Muses. (These local Muses, as Pausanias
9.29.2-3 reports, are Melete practice, Mneme memory, and Aoide
song; these names correspond to the processes involved in the compo
sition and performance of oral poetry.)68 The figure of Hesiod requires
these local Muses in order to compose a theogony, but he also requires
the Olympian Muses in order to compose pan-Hellenic poetry. His own
implicit reward for assimilating the Helikonian Muses into the Olympian
68 Cf. Dedenne 1973.12.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

61

is that his local gifts, a staff and a voice that are both appropriate to a
local thcogony, become in a pan-Hellenic context the emblems that
establish his ultimate authority as poet, emanating from the ultimate
authority of Zeus as king.

The Language of Hesiod


The figure of Hesiod can proudly announce his local origins and still
speak in a language that has evolved to match the language of panHellenic hymns, which in turn have evolved to match the language of
the epics that they inaugurate. The poet of the Theogony can even
equate the artistry of composing a pan-Hellenic theogony with that of
composing an epic (100-101)and the ritual context that a local the
ogony would surely entail is for us all but forgotten.
In fact, the diction of Hesiodic poetry is so akin to the Homeric that
its self-proclaimed Boeotian provenience would be nearly impossible to
detect on the basis of language alone. What is more, the Ionic phase of
evoludon and eventual crystallizadon is actually even stronger in the
Hesiodic tradidon than in the Homeric.69
Granted, there have been attempts to establish linguisdc differences
between Homer and Hesiod, the most interesdng of which is the finding
that the first- and second-declension accusative plural endings -s and
-ous occur in preconsonantal position far more often in Hesiodic than in
Homeric diction; also, that in prevocalic position they occur less often.70
This phenomenon has been interpreted to mean that we are somehow
dealing with the native speaker(s) of a dialect in which these accusative
plurals have been shortened to -s and -os, this way the beginning of the
next word with a consonant would not matter because the resulting -s
C- and -os G-71 do not produce overlength, whereas -s C- and -ous C- do.
Now, it is true that Homeric diction tends to avoid overlength (-VC C- as
distinct from -VC C- or -V C-), but it does not follow that Hesiodic diction
should neatly match this tendency; rather, in line with the fact that the
formulaic behavior of Hesiod generally reveals fewer constraints, and
hence less archaism, than that of Homer, it could be that the higher pro
portion of preconsonantal -as and -ous in Hesiod reveals simply a greater
tolerance for this type of overlength than in Homer.
w Janko 1982.85,197.
70 Edwards 1971.141-165.
71 In what follows, C * consonant," V * vowel."

62

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

As it happens, accusative plurals ending in -as and -s are decidedly


not a feature of the Boeotian dialect. As for the sporadic occurrences of
first-declension -as before vowels, it is not true that this phenomenon is
limited to Hesiodic diction, as is generally claimed. There are sporadic
occurrences in Homeric dicdon as well, including the Hymns (for
instance, at Iliad V 269, VIII 378; Odyssey xvii 232; Hymn to Hermes 106).
It is difficult, granted, simply to rule out the possibility that this
phenomenon is a reflex of Doric dialects, where first- and seconddeclension -s V- and -s V- are indeed attested. Still, it seems preferable
to account for the entire problem in terms of the Ionic dialects, which
represent the final and definidve phase in the evoludon of both
Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. The formulaic evidence could go back to
a pre-ionic stage common to all Greek dialects, with accusative plurals
ending in
-ans V-onsV-

-ans C-ns C-

Then we may posit an intermediate stage common to all dialects (and


still attested in some) with
-ans V-ns V-

-s C-6s C-

In the final Ionic stage, prevocalic -ans/-ns became -ds/-ous, which


were extended to preconsonantal position as well:
-s V-

-OttiV-

-s C-aus C-

But the intermediate stage, by way of formulaic repositionings of


words from prevocalic to preconsonantal contexts and vice versa, could
have left sporadic traces of contaminations*:
-as V-s V-

-s C-ous C-

There would be more such traces in Hesiodic than in Homeric poetry


simply because the Hesiodic reflects a longer span of evolution in the
Ionic hexameter tradition. The point remains: not only does Hesiodic
poetry implicitly claim to be like Homeric poetry (as at Theogony 100101) but it also shares extensively in its formal heritage.
Even within Homeric poetry, the Odyssey is perceptibly different from

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

63

the Iliad in featuring more instances of preconsonantal -ds/-ous and


fewer instances of prevocalic -ds/-ous, although this gap between the
Odyssey and the Iliad is not nearly as great as the one between the
Hesiodic poems, on the one hand, and the Homeric, on the other.72*
Still, these data correspond to an overall pattern, as established on the
basis of several other linguistic criteria: the Odyssey had a longer span of
evoludon in the Ionic hexameter tradidon than the Iliad, while the
Hesiodic poems combined had an even longer span than the Odyssey.75
The pervasive Ionic heritage of Hesiodic poetry extends from form to
content. The one month name overtly mendoned in the Works and Days,
Lenaion (504), happens to occur in many Ionian calendars (though not
in the Athenian), and even the morphology (ending in -on) is disdnctly
Ionic. Now, each city-state had its own idiosyncratic calendar, and there
were significant variations in the naming of months even among states
that were closely related; it comes as no surprise, then, that the overt
mentioning of month names was generally shunned in archaic Greek
poetry, with its pan-Hellenic orientation. Thus it is all the more striking
that an exclusively Ionic name should surface in the poetry of Boeotian
Hesiod. At best, we can justify the name Lenaion as tending toward a
pan-Hellenic audience in that it is native to most Ionian cities at least;
moreover, the meaning of the name is transparent, in that it is derived
from lenai devotees of Dionysus*. Even so, the name and its form are
more pan-Ionian than pan-Hellenic. Moreover, the description of the
wind Boreas as it blows over the sea from Thrace in the verses immedi
ately following the mention of Lenaion reflects a geographically Ionian
orientation parallel to what we find in the Iliad.74
In sum, not only does Hesiodic poetry implicitly claim to be like
Homeric poetry, but it also shares its predominantly Ionic formal heri
tage.

Hesiod, Poet of the Works and Days


Hesiods ultimate authority as poet, emanating from the ultimate
authority of Zeus as king, is put to the test in the Works and Days. In the
prelude to the poem (1-10), which is formally the equivalent of a hymn
to Zeus, the supreme god is implored to straighten the divine laws
[themis plural] with your judgment [dikeI (9) while the poet proceeds to
72 Data in Janko 1982.

75Ibid.
74 West 1978.27.

64

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

say etetuma genuine things to his brother Perses (10). Thus the actions
of Zeus and the words of Hesiod are drawn into an explicitly parallel
relationship.
The actions of Zeus are a model for the ideal king as visualized in the
Theogony: imbued by the Muses (80-84), he sorts out the divine laws
[themis plural] with straight judgments [dike {plural}] (85-86). Thanks
to his straight judgments, the king is also able to bring to an end even a
great neikos quarrel (87). We are reminded of the neikos pictured on
the Shield of Achilles {Iliad XVIII 497), adjudicated by elders who pro
nounce dike judgment with skeptron in hand (505-508).75 Curiously, the
idealized king in the Theogony is not represented as holding a skeptron;
instead, this symbol of the authority that emanates from Zeus is con
ferred by the Muses upon Hesiod (Theogony 30). It is as if the Museimbued king were cast in a mold that could fit the poet.
This is not to say that Hesiod is a king; rather, as we shall see, the
Works and Days elaborates an authority that replaces and transcends that
of kings. The impetus for the entire poem is in fact a neikos quarrel
between Hesiod and Perses (35), but this quarrel will not be stopped by
any ideal king; the poet wishes that he and his brother would settle it
themselves (35), with straight judgments [dike plural], which are the
best, being from Zeus* (36). The original cause of the quarrel between
the two brothers is this: after they had divided up their inheritance from
their father (37), Perses forcibly took some of Hesiods fair share (38),
thereby enhancing the prestige of greedy kings who wish to pronounce
this judgment [dike] (38-39). These kings, characterized by Hesiod as
dorophdgoi gift-devouring (39, 221, 264), are anything but ideal, and the
poet threatens that they will be punished for their crooked judgments
[dike plural] (250, 264).
As we shall see, what ultimately settles the quarrel of Hesiod and
Perses is not any king, but the Works and Days itself, elaborating on the
concept of dike in the sense of justice. So far, the translation offered
for dike has been judgment, which is how we must interpret the word in
the immediate contexts of Works and Days 39, 249, and 269. In each of
these instances, an accompanying demonstrative (tende, see also tdde
these things at 268) forces a translation such as this judgment', refer
ring short-range to the unjust pronouncement that the greedy kings wish
to make. Such contexts even help us understand the etymology of dike.
the ideal king sorts out (verb diakrtn, at Theogony 85) what is therms
divine law and what is not (85) by way of dike (86), which is an indica
tion (as in Latin indic-re, where -die- is cognate with Greek dike), hence
75 See p. 53.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

65

judgment. Long-range, however, any ad hoc judgment can be turned


into justice by Zeus, who is the authority behind all human judgments.
Thus, when Hesiod implores Zeus to straighten the divine laws [therms
plural] with dike" (Works and Days 9), the supreme gods judgment is
the same as justice. This action of Zeus, to repeat, is coefficient with
the words of Hesiod to Perses (10), in the context of a neikos quarrel
that the two of them must sort out for themselves (verb diakrtn again,
this time in the middle voice; verse 35).
The figure of Hesiod resorts to words in reacting to the violent seizure
of his property by Perses. First he tells Perses the story of Prometheus
and Pandora (Works and Days 42-105), motivating the prime theme of
mans inherent need to work the land for a living. Then he tells Perses
the myth of the five generations of mankind (106-201), which shows in
detail how mankind becomes elevated by dike justice and debased by its
opposite, hiibris outrage.76 The fifth and present generation, which is
the Age of Iron, is a time when dike and hubris are engaged in an ongo
ing struggle. As happens elsewhere in myths about the ages of mankind,
the present encompassed by the final age merges with the future and
becomes a prophecy:77 in a deeply pessimistic tone Hesiod predicts that
dike will finally lose to hiibris (Works and Days 190-194). Next, Hesiod
tells the fable of the hawk and the nightingale (202-212), addressing it
to kings whom he diplomatically presupposes to be phroneontes aware
(202). Again the tone is pessimistic, at least in the immediate context:
the hawk seizes the nightingale, described as an aoidos singer, that is,
poet (208), simply because he is more powerful (206, 207, 210), and he
boasts of having the ultimate power of either releasing or devouring his
vicum (209).
At this point Hesiod turns to Perses and, applying all that he has just
told him, concludes by urging his brother to espouse dike and reject
hiibris (Works and Days 213). He warns that the fulfillment of dike is an
eventual process, and that dike will in the end triumph over htibris
(217-218). Personified as a goddess, Dike will punish greedy men who
sort out divine laws [verb krttur, noun themis) with crooked judgments
[dike plural] (220-223), and who drive her out, making her not
straight (224; cf. Iliad XVI 387-388). Then follows the paradigm of the
two cities: the polis of dike becomes fertile and rich (225-237; cf. Odys
sey xix 109-114), while the polis of htibris becomes sterile and poor
(238-247).
76 N 1979a. 151-165, following Vernant 1960. 1966. See also the updated observations of
Vcmant 1965.101,104,106.
77 West 1978.176.

66

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

Having defined justice as an eventual process (Works and Days


217-218), Hesiod invites the greedy kings to reconsider this judgment
[dike\ (269) that they had wanted to pronounce in response to the for
cible taking of Hesiods property by Perses (39). We now see that kings
who make this judgment [dike| (269) are thereby making the goddess
Dike not straight (224), and that the goddess will eventually punish
such men through the power of her father, Zeus (220-224, 256-269).
The eventuality of Dike is also clearly defined in the poetry of Solon:
men who forcibly take the property of others (F 4.13 W) are thereby
guilty of hubris (4.8) in violating the foundations of Dike (4.14), who will
come to exact just punishment with the passage of time (4.16).
The Works and Days dramatizes the actual passage of time required for
the workings of Dike. At the beginning of the poem we find the goddess
implicidy violated through the forcible taking of Hesiods property by
Perses and through the crooked judgment pronounced in the unjust
brothers favor by the greedy kings. At verse 39 this judgment [dike]" is
still implicitly crooked as the poet begins to teach about Dike, and the
initial teachings are still pessimistic about the outcome of the struggle
between hiibris and dike, as also about the power of the hawk/king over
the nightingale/poet By the time we reach verses 249 and 269, how
ever, this judgment [dike]" is seen in the light of the vengeance that
Dike herself will take on those who violated her. Perses is now urged to
espouse dike in the sense of justice (275), since those without it will
devour each other like wild beasts (275-278).
The moral of the fable about the hawk and the nightingale hereby
becomes explicit: the hawk/king who threatens to devour the
nightingale/poet as proof of his power is utterly disqualified as an
exponent of dike justice. Moreover, since only those kings who are
phroniontes aware will understand the fable (202; cf. the idealized kings
at Theogony 88, who are ekhephrones aware), the greedy kings are impli
cidy disqualified even from understanding the moral, in view of their
general ignorance (see Works and Days 40-41).78 And if the kings cannot
be exponents of dike, they are utterly without authority and their raison
detre is annihilated. In fact, after verse 263, the kings are never heard
of again in the Works and Days.
As for Perses, he is being taught that, in the end, it is the man of dike
who gets rich (Works and Days 280-281), while the man who forcibly
takes the property of others (320-324) will have wealth only for a short
while" (325-326). By the time we reach verse 396 of the Works and Days,
On the importance of omithomanteid divination by birds in the whole poem. cf. Works
and Days 828 in the context of the comments by West 1978.364-365.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

67

Perses has been reduced to utter penury and now comes to beg from
Hesiod. But the poet refuses to give him anything, teaching him instead
to work the land for a living (396-397). While the authority of dike as
emanating from Zeus and as represented by Hesiod is eventually taking
hold, even the sense of indignation originally felt by the poet against his
brother begins to recede; already by verse 286 he is expressing his good
intentions toward Perses. Toward the latter half of the poem, the figure
of Perses recedes in favor of a generalized second-person singular: it is
as if Perses were now tacidy ready to accept the teachings of his righ
teous brother.
In the end, then, dike justice is totally vindicated in the Works and
Days, and its eventual triumph is dramatized in the dme that elapses in
the course of the poem. Moreover, the function of the basileiis king as
the authority who tells what is and what is not themis divine law by way
of his dike judgment is taken over by the poem itself. The vantage
point is pan-Hellenic, in that all the cities of the Hellenes are reduced to
two extreme types, the polis of dike (225-237) and the polis of htibris
(238-247). Even the consistendy plural use of basilets kings in the
Works and Days suggests a pan-Hellenic perspective: from the Homeric
tradidon we see that each city is ruled by a single king.
With the eliminadon of kings, the Works and Days can address itself to
any polis of, say, the eighth century or thereafterwhether its govern
ment is an oligarchy, a democracy, or even a tyranny. And what the
poem in effect communicates is the universal foundation of the law
codes native to each Greek city-state.
Even in a democracy like Athens, the laws of Solon, as his own poetry
proclaims, are founded on the authority of Zeus as king (F 31 W). Just
as Zeus is the one who straightens what is crooked and withers the
overweening (Works and Days 7), as he is implored by Hesiod to
straighten the divine laws [themis plural] with dike' (9), so also Solons
Eunomid good government by way of good laws is a goddess who shack
les those without dike* (F 4.33 W), blackens hubris (4.34), withers the
sprouting outgrowths of derangement (4.35), and straightens crooked
judgments [dih' plural]* (4.36). In the Theogonyv/e find that Zeus him
self fathered Eunomid, as well as Dike (902); moreover, their mother is
Themis, the incarnation of divine law and order (901), and it is
significant that Zeus married her after defeating Typhoeus and swallow
ing Metis, the last two remaining threats to cosmic order.
Assuming the stance of a lawgiver, Solon says in his poetry that he
wrote down his thesmoi laws after having adjusted a dike that is
straight for the noble and the base alike (F 36.18-20 W). But besides
this written law code, we must also keep in mind the poetic traditions
attributed to Solon; and in these traditions the figure of Solon functions

68

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

not only as a lawgiver, as we see here, but also as a personal exponent of


dike by virtue of his life as dramatized through his poetry. In one poem,
for example, Solon prays to the Muses that they give him wealth and
fame (F 13.1-4 W), and that they should allow him to help his friends
and hurt his enemies (13.5-6). He yearns to own khremata possessions
but renounces any thought of forcibly taking any from others, which
would be without dike" (13.7-8); sooner or later dike would have
revenge (13.8). More specifically, deeds of hdbrismW surely be punished
by Zeus, who appears like a violent wind (13.16-25; cf. again Iliad XVI
384-392).
In the poetic traditions of the city-state of Megara, as represented by
the figure of Theognis, we find a remarkable parallel: here, too, the
poet prays to Zeus that he may help his friends and hurt his enemies
(Theognis 337-338). If Theognis could only exact retribution, by the
time he dies, from those who had wronged him, then he would have the
fame of a god among men (339-340).79 We may note the similarity
between this aspiration and what happens to Lycurgus of Sparta: this
lawgiver is declared to be like a god by Apollos oracle at Delphi (Hero
dotus 1.65.3) and is made a cult hero after death (1.66.1).80 Theognis
goes on to say how he has been personally wronged: his possessions
were forcibly taken from him (Theognis 346-347). So, too, with Hesiod:
Perses had forcibly taken some of his possessions (Works and Days 37, in
conjunction with 320).
Like Hesiod, moreover, Theognis initially admits pessimism about any
success at retribution (Theognis 345), and in his apparent helplessness
he expresses the ghastly urge to drink the blood of those who had
wronged him (349). The cryptic mention here of a daimon spirit who
would supervise such a vengeance (349-350) reminds us of the coundess
invisible phulakes guardians of Dike who stand ready to punish wrong
doers in Works and Days 249-255 and who are idendcal to the daimones or
stylized cult heroes at verses 122-126.81 The guardians of dike justice
are described as coefficients of the personified goddess Dike, who is like
wise pictured as standing ready to punish wrongdoers (Works and Days
256-262); similarly in the poetry of Solon, it is Dike who in due time pun
ishes wrongdoers (F 4.14-16 W). Theognis, however, has conjured up
the starker alternative of a bloodthirsty revenant, who may even turn out
to be the poets own self after death.82
79 Commentary in N 1985a.68-74.
80 N p. 69.
81 N pp. 72-75. Cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.
82 N p. 75.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

69

Although the particulars may vary, Theognis, like Hesiod and Solon,
is presented through his poetry as a personal exponent of dike by virtue
of his life as dramatized through his poetry. But, unlike Solons poetry,
which can refer to the dike of a written law code as well (F 36.18-20), the
poetry of Theognis can refer only to the dike that emerges from his
teachings, addressed to his young hetairos comrade Kymos and to vari
ous minor characters. Still, this dike has the force of a law code handed
down by a lawgiver, as Theognis himself proclaims:83

, ,
,
<
Theognis 543-546
I must pronounce this dike, Kymos, along [the straight line of] a
carpenters rule and square,
and I must give to both sides their equitable share,
with the help of seers [m dntis plural], portents, and burning sacrifice,
so that I may not incur shameful reproach for veering.

Like Solon, who protects both sides" and allows neither side to win
( / at F 5.5/6), Theognis presents himself as giv
ing an equal share to both sides" ( at 544 above), elsewhere
advising Kymos to walk the middle road" (219-220, 331-332) and to
give to neither side that which belongs to the other ( 332).
The fact that Theognis pronounces this dike (verse 544) in a setting
of sacrifice and ritual correctness (545) is significant in view of Hesiods
instructions in the latter part of the Works and Days, where moral and
ritual correctness are consistently made parallel. At verses 333-335
Hesiods concluding moral injunction to shun deeds without dikeis fol
lowed up by further advice, this time a ritual injunction:

, *
,
,
.8

88 Commentary in . 37-38.

70

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics


| ,
Hesiod

Works an d Days 336-341

To the best of your ability, sacrifice to the immortal gods


in a holy and pure manner, burning sumptuous thigh-portions;
and at other times propitiate them with libations and burnt offerings,
both when you go to bed and when the holy light comes back,
so that they may have a gracious heart and disposition,
and so you may buy another mans holding, rather than have him buy
vours.

As the Works and Days proceeds, the advice becomes more and more
meticulous; for example, one must not cut ones nails at a feast of the
gods (742-743). Or again, a man must not urinate while standing up
and facing the sun (727), or in a road (729), or into rivers or springs
(757-758). We may compare the parallel advice in the Indie Law Code of
Manu 4.45-48; Let him not void urine on a road . . . nor while he walks
or stands, nor on reaching the bank of a river. . . . Let him never void
faeces or urine, facing the wind, or a fire, or looking towards a Brahman,
the sun, water, or cows.84
T h e legal traditions o f the Indie peoples are clearly cognate with
those of the Greeks, and in this connection it is especially interesting to
observe the uses of memnemenos being mindful at Works and Days 728, in
the specific context of the injunctions now being considered, as well as
elsewhere (Works and Days 298, 422, 616, 623, 641, 711). The root
*men-/*mneh - of memnemenos recurs in the Indie name Manu-, mean
ing the mindful one: this ancestor of the human race gets his name
(which is cognate with English man) by virtue of being mindful at a
sacrifice. Manu is the prototypical sacrificer, whose sheer virtuosity in
what Sylvain Levi has called the delicate art of sacrifice confers upon
him an incontestable authority in matters of ritual.85 Since ritual correct
ness is the foundation of Indie law, the entire Indie corpus of
juridical/moral aphorisms is named after him.
There is a parallel thematic pattern in the Precepts of Cheiron, a poem
attributed to Hesiod (scholia to Pindar Pythian 6.22) in which Cheiron
the Centaur instructs the boy Achilles. The one fragment that we have
(Hesiod F 283 MW) contains the initial words spoken by the centaur, in
which he tells Achilles that the very first thing the young hero must do
when he arrives home is to sacrifice to the gods. In a fragment from the
2

84 Cf. West 1978.334-335; cf. Watkins 1979.


85 Levi 1966 [1898]. 121. Cf. N 1985a.38-41. See also pp. 110-111 below.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

71

Epic Cycle (Titanomachy F 6 p. I l l Allen), Cheiron is described as the


one who led the race of mortals to justice [dikaiosdne] by showing them
oaths, festive sacrifices, and the configurations [skhemata] of Olympus.
There are also parallel formal patterns shared by the Precepts and by the
Works and Days (336-337, 687-688), as well as by Theognis (99-100, 1145
in conjunction with 1147-1148).
The interaction between Cheiron and Achilles in the Precepts of Cheiron
is so strikingly similar to the one between Hesiod and Perses and the one
between Theognis and Kymos that F. G. Welcker was led to propose, in
the preface to his 1826 edition of Theognis, that Perses and Kymos are
generic figures whose dramatized familiarity with Hesiod and Theognis
makes it possible for these poets to offer well-intended advice to their
audiences, who really consist of strangers.86 Such Near Eastern typologi
cal parallels as Ahiqar and Nadan and the Proverbs of Solomon add to the
probability that these figures are indeed generic.87 Nevertheless, at least
in the case of Perses, scholars resist accepting this probability, primarily
because the historicity of even Hesiod is thereby endangered, and no
one supposes Hesiod himself to be an assumed character."88
Throughout this presentation it has been generally argued that the
persona of the poet in any given archaic Greek poem is but a function of
the traditions inherited by that poem; accordingly, the assumption of
Hesiods historicity, as in the statement just quoted, requires no ad hoc
rebuttal here. Suffice it for now to observe that there are analogues to
the complementary characterizations of Hesiod and Perses even in
Homeric poetry. One example is the challenge issued by Odysseus to
the suitor Eurymakhos at Odyssey xviii 366-S75:89 the resourceful king,
disguised as beggar-poet,90 is challenging the idle usurper of his posses
sions to a hypothetical contest (the word for which is eris strife at xviii
366; cf. Works and Days 11-26, especially 26) in the activity of working
the land (the word for which is ergon, again at xviii 366, and also at xviii
369; cf. Works and Days 20).
Or again, there are analogues to the complementary characterizations
of Theognis and Kymos in the Works and Days. For example, Hesiod
pointedly teaches that one should not make ones hetairos comrade
equal to ones own brother (707). This negative injunction then
becomes an excuse for displaying the poetic traditions available for
teaching a hetairos instead of a brother, since Hesiod goes on to say in
86West 1978.33-34.
87 West p. 34.
88West p. 34.
89 On which see Svenbro 1976.57-58.

Cf. N 1979a.228-242.

72

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

the next verse: but if you should do so [make your hetairos equal to your
own brother], then . . . (708). What follows in the next several verses is
a veritable string of aphorisms that deal precisely with the topic of
behavior toward ones hetairos (708-722), and there are numerous strik
ing analogues to the aphorisms explicitly or implicitly offered by
Theognis to his hetairos Kymos (for instance, Works and Days 710-711,
717-718, 720 and Theognis 155-158, 945, 1089-1090, respectively).
Conversely, Theognis pointedly defines a true phos friend as a man
who puts up with a difficult hetairos as if he were his brother (97-100 =
1164a-d). By implication, one simply has to put up with a difficult
brother. Theognis is uncertain whether his being a phtlos friend to Kyrnos is actually reciprocated: he challenges the fickle youth either to be a
genuine phtlos (89 = 1082e) or to declare that he is an ekhthms enemy,
overtly starting a neikos quarrel between the two of them (89-90). We
may compare the neikos between Hesiod and Perses, which is indeed
overt (Works and Days 35) but at least is setded in the course of the
poem. By contrast, no overt neikos ever develops between Theognis and
Kymos, and neither is Theognis ever assured that Kymos is a genuine
phtlos.
In reckoning with different samples of archaic Greek poetry, we must
of course avoid the assumption that parallel passages are a matter of text
referring to text; rather, it is simply that any given composition may
refer to traditions other than the ones that primarily shaped it, and such
different traditions may be attested elsewhere. Sdll, it is almost as if
Theognis here were alluding to Perses, or as if Hesiod were actually giv
ing advice on how to treat a fickle Kyrnos.
Hesiod and Perses are not the only key characters in the Works and
Days. Their fathers very essence retells some of the key themes that
shape the composition. He came from Kyme in Asia Minor (636), sail
ing the seas in an effort to maintain his meager subsistence (633-634),
until he setded on the mainland at Askra, a place that is harsh in the
winter, unpleasant in the summerin short, never agreeable (639-640).
This description of Hesiods Askra, generally accepted as empirical
truth by scholars from Strabo onward, seems exaggerated at best: the
region is in fact fertile, relatively protected from winds, replete with
beautiful scenery, and actually mild in the winter as well as the sum
mer.91 Why, then, does Hesiod present a deliberately negative picture of
his native Askra? The answer emerges when we reconsider the city of
Kyme, which, in sharp contrast with Askra, is the place that Hesiods
father left, fleeing from poverty [penia\, not from wealth" (Works and
91 Wallace 1974.8.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

73

Days 637-638). We see here a pointed contrast with a theme characteris


tic of ktisis ('foundation') poetry, a genre that concerned itself with the
great colonizations launched toward distant lands from cities of the
mainland and its periphery.92
One of the thematic conventions of foundation poetry is that the
great new cities that sprang up in Asia Minor and elsewhere in the era of
colonizations were founded by intrepid adventurers fleeing from the
poverty that overwhelmed them in the old cities. A worthy example is
Kolophon, one of whose founders was 'the man in rags, Rhakios, who
got his name because of his poverty and shabby clothes (scholia to
Apollonius of Rhodes 1.308).93 So also in the poetic traditions of
Megara, which celebrated the citys role as starting point for the founda
tion of many great cities, including Byzantium, in the era of coloniza
tions.94 Theognis of Megara urges that one must travel over land and sea
in search of relief from baneful pmid poverty (Theognis 179-180). In
sum, when Hesiods father traveled all the way to Askra from Kyme,
thereby fleeing pmid poverty (Works and Days 638), he was in effect
reversing the conventional pattern of colonization as narrated in ktisis
poetry.
To repeat, we have here a pointed negative reference as well:
Hesiods father fled from penta poverty (Works and Days 638) and did
not flee from wealth (637). The theme of wealth conjures up a distinc
tive feature of foundation poetry, where the colonizers advance from
rags to riches, eventually making their new cities fabulously wealthy.95
Again a worthy example is the city of Kolophon, which in time grew
excessively rich (Athenaeus 526a, quoting Xenophanes of Kolophon F 3
W). From Theognis 1103-1104 we learn that the mark of this excess was
hubris outrage, which led to Kolophons utter destruction. This fate, as
the poet warns, is now looming over Megara as well. Further, we see that
the hubris afflicting Megara is manifested specifically as greed for the
possessions of others, and that it brings about the ultimate debasement
of the citys nobility (Theognis 833-836).
Such warnings about debasement and even destruction by hubris
recall the Hesiodic scheme of the two cities: while the city of dike
becomes fertile and rich (Works and Days 225-235), so that no one
needs to sail the seas for a living (236-237), the city of hubris becomes
sterile and poor (238-247), and its people are afflicted either by wars
(246) or by the storms that Zeus sends against them as they sail the seas98
98 For a collection of fragments and commentary, see Schmid 1947.
95 Schmid pp. 28-29.
94 See Hanell 1954.95-97.
95 N 1985a.51-60.

74

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

(247). From the standpoint of ktisis poetiy, as we have seen in the


instance of Kolophon, the same city can begin at one extreme and end
at the other. As he leaves Kyme, Hesiods father flees the poverty of a
city implicitly ruined by hubris (Works and Days 637-638), and he is in
effect fleeing from the debris of what had been the golden age of coloni
zation (for a Homeric reference to foundation poetry, specifically to nar
rative conventions that picture colonization in a golden age setting, see
Odyssey ix 116-141).96
Settling down in Askra, Hesiods father has found a setting marked by
a stylized harshness that conjures up the iron age.97 Whereas dike and
hribris characterize the golden and the silver ages, respectively (Works and
Days 124, 134), both characterize the iron age simultaneously. So, too,
with Askra: it is neither a city of dike nor a city of hubris. Still, the place
is full of characteristics that pull in one direction or the other. For
example, the name Askr itself means sterile oak (Hesychius, s.v.
- ). While barrenness marks the city of hubris (Works
and Days 242-244), a fertile acom-bearing oak is a prime image in the
city of dike (232-233: note here the phonetic similarity of driis dkre top
of the oak with Askre). The local lore as reported by Pausanias (9.29.1)
has it that Askra was founded by Oioklos (he who is famous for his
sheep: cf. Works and Days 234 and Theogony 26), son of a personified
Askra who mated with Poseidon; and that it was also founded by Otos
and Ephialtes, who were the first to sacrifice on Helikon to the Muses.
These two brothers, however, are elsewhere clearly exponents of hubris
(Odyssey xi 305-320, especially 317 in conjunction with Works and Days
132, preliminary to the destruction of the Silver Generation because of
their hubris, verse 134).
As we have seen earlier, the struggle of dike against hixbris in the iron
age of mankind appears at first to be a lost cause, but the corresponding
struggle, in Askra, of Hesiod as exponent of dike against Perses as
exponent of hubris turns into a universalized triumph for justice and for
the authority of Zeus. In this light we may consider the meaning of the
name Perses. Since this character, unlike Hesiod, is confined to the Works
and Days, the meaning may have something to do with the central
themes inherited by this composition. Now, the form Perses is a residual
variant, through a split in declensional patterns, of Perseiis, and we may
compare such other formal pairs as Kisses (Iliad XI 223) and Classical
Kisseus,98 Moreover, the form Perseus is related to the compound formant
96Ci. N 1979a.l80-181.
97 Cf. West 1978.197.
98 For these and other examples, see Perpillou 1973.239-240.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

75

pent- of the verb perth destroy,99 and it is not without interest that the
direct objects of perth are confined in Homeric tradition to potis city, its
synonyms ptoliethron and stu, or the name of a polis. Since Perses is pri
marily an exponent of hubris in the Works and Days, we may recall the
traditional theme expressed in the poetry of Theognis: hbris destroys
the city (1103-1104, for example).
Of course hubris destroys cities only figuratively: more precisely, it is
Zeus who destroys cities because of their hbriswhich is actually what
he does to the archetypical city of hubris at Works and Days 238-247 (espe
cially 239, 242). In this sense the name Penes formalizes the negative
side of what Zeus does to those mortals who are marked by hbris. Thus
it may be significant that Perses is addressed as dion genos descendant of
Zeus by his brother Hesiod at Works and Days 299and that this title is
elsewhere applied only to the children of Zeus (for instance, Artemis at
Iliad IX 538). Moreover, from the fifth century onward, the name of the
father of Hesiod and Perses is attested as Dios (see, for example,
Ephorus of Kyme FGH 70 F 1). Thus the split between Hesiod and
Perses as exponents of dike and hubris, corresponding to the split
between the city of dike and the city of hbris, is genetically reconciled in
a figure whose name carries the essence of Zeus, much as Hesiod and
Perses become reconciled in the course of the Works and Days through
the utter defeat of hbris by the dike of Zeus.
Hesiods pervasive affinities with Zeus, as with Apollo and his Olym
pian Muses, are paralleled by his affinities with the goddess Hekate as
she is celebrated in Theogpny 404-452. Like Zeus, this goddess is an ideal
paradigm for the pan-Hellenic nature of Hesiodic poetry. Thanks to the
sanctions of the supreme god (Theogpny 411-415, 423-425), Hekate has
title to a share in the divine functions of all the gods (421-422). Accord
ingly, the invocation of Hekate at a sacrifice is tantamount to a blanket
invocation of all the other gods as well (416-420). Because of her rela
tively recent, maybe even foreign, origins,100 this synthetic goddess
Hekate is an ideal pan-Hellenic figure (we may compare the choice of
foreign Nyse as the genuine birthplace of Dionysus in the H om eric
Hymn to Dionysus 1.8-9): she can manifest even her ritual dimensions in
Hesiodic poetry, unlike the historically older gods who are each
worshiped in different ways by each city-stateand whose ritual dimen
sions are therefore consistently screened out by the pan-Hellenic poems
of Hesiod as well as Homer.
99 Perpillou p. 231.
100 West 1966.278.

76

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

The parallelism of Hekate with Apollo and his Muses also has a bear
ing on the pan-Hellenic authority of Hesiod. We start with the fact that
Apollo and Hekate are actually cousins: their mothers, Leto and Asteria,
are sisters (Theogpny 405-410), and the latter name is identical to the
god-given name of Delos, Apollos birthplace (Pindar Paean 5.42 in
conjunction with Callimachus Hymn 4.36; also Pindar F 33c.6 SM). The
shared grandparents of Apollo and Hekate are Phoibe and Kotos, the first
name is the feminine equivalent of Apollos primary epithet Phoibos (as
at Theogpny 14), while the second is cognate with the Indie kavipoet/seer101 (we may compare the discussion, above, of Apollos rela
tionship to the generic aoidos singer/poet* and mdntis seer). The
name Hekdte is the feminine equivalent of Apollos epithet Hekatos (as at
Hymn to Apollo 1). Most important, the name of Hekates father, Penes
(Theogpny 409), is idendcal to that of Hesiods brother.
Hekate is the only legitimate child of Perses the god, and as such she
is mounogenes only-bom (Theogpny 426, 448). By contrast, Perses the
man is distinctly not the only child of Dios, being the brother of Hesiod,
who in turn implicitly wishes he were an only child: he advises that the
ideal household should indeed have a mounogenes only-born to inherit
the possessions of the father ( Works and Days 376-377). What would
happen if Hekate were not mounogenes is suggested by the story about
the birth of Eris Strife in Works and Days 1126, presented as a tradi
tional alternative to the story reflected in Theogpny 225. The Works and
Days affirms that there is not just a moiinon . . . genos single birth of Eris
(11), the version that we see in the Theogpny (225), but that there are in
fact two Endes ( Works and Days 11-12). The younger and secondary one
of these Endes is negative in her stance toward mankind, but the older
and primary one is positive: she instills the spirit of competition that
motivates even the idler to work the land for a living (Works and Days
12-24). In that Eris is parent of Neikos quarreling (Theogpny 229), the
neikos between Hesiod and Perses (Works and Days 35) is motivated by
Eris. At first it seems as if it had been the maleficent and secondary Eris
that had done so, but, as the neikos eventually reaches a resolution with
the triumph of Hesiods dike over Perses hubris in the Works and Days, we
realize that it must have been the beneficent and primary Eris all
along.102 The point is, just as an undivided negative Eris can split into a
primary positive and secondary negative pair, so also an undivided posi
tive Hekate could by implication split into a primary negative and a
101 DELG 553 (cf. also Greek koto 'perceive*, I .atin taue beware, take precautions, provide guarantees*).

102N 1979a.313-314.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

77

secondary positive pair. Thus it is beneficial for mankind that Hekate


should remain an only child: the primary child in a hypothetical split of
the mounogenes Hekate figure would presumably take after the father
Perses, whose name conveys the negative response of gods to the hubris of
mankind.103 Similarly, Hesiod and Perses themselves are a primary posi
tive and secondary negative pair, while the secondary child Perses has a
name that conveys, again, the negative response of Zeus to the hubris of
mankind. As for the father of Hesiod and Perses, his name, Diosto
repeatcarries the essence of Zeus.
The special thematic relationship of Hesiod with the figure of Hekate
raises questions about a revealing detail in the Works and Days. Despite
all the advice given by Hesiod to Perses about sailing, the poet pointedly
says that he himself has never sailed on a ship except for the one time
when he traveled from Aulis to the island of Euboea (650-651). There
follows a pointed reference to the tradition claiming that the Achaean
expedition to Troy was launched from Aulis (651-653). The Iliad
acknowledges Aulis as the starting point of the Trojan expedition (II
303-304), and according to most versions it was there that Agamemnon
sacrificed his daughter Iphigeneia to Artemis (for instance, Cypria
Proclus summary p. 104.12-20 Allen). In the Hesiodic Catalogue of
Women (F 23a. 15-26 MW), we read that the sacrificed Iphigeneia (here
called Iphimede, verses 15, 17) was thereupon made immortal by
Artemis, and that, as a goddess, Iphigeneia became Artemis-of-theCrossroads, otherwise known as Hekate (Hesiod F 23b = Pausanias
1.43.1).
Hekate, as the Theogony (435-438) tells us, aids those who compete in
contests, and the poet cites athletic contests in particular. When Hesiod
crosses over from Aulis to Euboea, he is traveling to an occasion of con
tests, the Funeral Games of Amphidamas at Chalkis (Works and Days
654-656). Moreover, Hesiod competes in a poetic contest at the
gamesand wins (656-657). He goes home with a tripod as prize and
dedicates it to his native Helikonian Muses (657-658). Finishing his nar
rative about the prize that he won in the poetic contest, Hesiod point
edly says again that this episode marks the only time that he ever made a
sea voyage (660).
Hesiods only sea voyage is ostentatiously brief, with the distance
between Aulis and Euboea amounting to some 65 meters of water.104
There is a built-in antithesis here with the long sea voyage undertaken by
103 On the maleficent aspects of Hekate, as represented in archaic Greek iconography:
Vermeule 1979.109.
104 West 1978.320.

78

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

the Achaeans when they sailed to Troy. Perhaps the antithesis was
meant to extend further: Aulis is an original setting for the Catalogue of
Ships tradition, transferred to a Trojan setting in the Iliad only because
this particular epic starts the action in the final year of the war. But even
the Iliad acknowledges Aulis as the starting point of the Achaean flotilla.
Moreover, the strong Homeric emphasis on navigation as a key to the
Achaeans survival (for example, Iliad XVI 80-82)105 is in sharp contrast
with the strong Hesiodic emphasis on the poets personal inexperience
in navigationespecially in view of Hesiods additional emphasis on
Aulis as the starting point for not only his short sea voyage but also for
the long one undertaken by the Achaeans. Perhaps, then, this passage
reveals an intended differentiation of Hesiodic from Homeric poetry.
In this light it is not out of place to consider a variant verse reported
by the scholia at Works and Days 657. In this variant we find Hesiod
declaring that his adversary in the poetic contest that he won was none
other than Homer himself:
"
variant at

Works an d Days 657

Hesiod

Works an d Days 657

defeating god-like Homer in song, at Chalkis

instead of

winning in song, [I say that I] carried away [as a prize] a tripod with han
dles on it

There is no proof for the conventional explanation that this variant verse
is a mere interpolation (with the supposedly interpolated verse matching
a verse found in an epigram ascribed to Hesiod in Contest of Homer and
Hesiod p. 233.213-214 Allen). Also, to argue that this verse may be part
of a genuine variant passage is not to say that the surviving version about
the tripod is therefore not genuine. In archaic Greek poetry, reported
variants may at any time reflect not some false textual alteration but,
rather, a genuine traditional alternative that has been gradually ousted
in the course of the poems crystallization into a fixed text.106
Furthermore, there is an attested traditional story that tells of the con
test of Homer and Hesiod (Contest pp. 225-238 Allen), juxtaposing the
105 Commentary in N 1979a.333-347.
106 Cf. Lamberton 1988.45-48.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

79

Life of Homer and the Life of Hesiod traditions. In its present form it is a
late and accretive reworking that has generated much controversy about
its authorship, a problem that cannot be addressed here.107 One thing is
sure, however: the basic premise of the storythat Homer and Hesiod
competed in a poetic contestexhibits the characteristics of a tradi
tional theme. This theme, moreover, corresponds to a basic truth about
archaic Greek society: the performance of poetry, from the days of the
oral poets all the way to the era of the rhapsodes, was by its nature a
matter of competition.108

Prospects
To treat Hesiod simply as an author will only accentuate our inability
to appreciate fully his poems, in that he represents a culmination of what
must have been countless successive generations of singers interacting
with their audiences throughout the Greek-speaking world. Whatever
poetic devices we admire in the poems have been tested many thousands
of times, we may be sure, on the most discerning audiences. Even the
unmistakable signs of a Hesiodic poems structural unity are surely the
result of streamlining by the tradition itself, achieved in the continuous
process of a poems being recomposed in each new performance.
Instead of referring to a poem in such a context, moreover, it would be
better to speak in terms of a tradition ofperforming a certain kind ofpoem.
With the important added factor of pan-Hellenic diffusion, the succes
sive recompositions of Hesiodic poetry could in time become ever less
varied, more and more crystallized, as the requirements of composition
became increasingly universalized. Of course the rate of such crystalliza
tion, and even the date, could have been different in each poem or even
in different parts of the same poem. From this point of view, we can in
principle include as Hesiodic even a composition like the Shield of Herakles, though it may contain references to the visual arts datable to the
early sixth century. Scholars are too quick to dismiss this poem as not a
genuine work on the basis of the dating alone, and it then becomes all
the easier for them to underrate its artistic qualities on the grounds that
it is merely an imitation of Hesiod.
107 See Janko 1982.259-260n80; cf. also Dunkel 1979.252-253. For a useful perspective
on the problem: Lamberton pp. 5-10.
108 Detailed discussion in Durante 1976.197-198. Cf. also Dunkel 1979 and N 1979a.311
2n6. For an example of a myth about such a competition, I cite the story of a contest
between Arctinus of Miletus and Lesches of Mytilene, two of the poets of the Epic Cycle
(Phaenias F 33 Wehrli, in Clement StnmaUis 1.131.6).

80

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

Critics also have noticed that the conclusion of the Theogony at verses
901-1020 is formally and even stylistically distinct from the previous
parts of the poem.109 But this part is also functionally distinct from the
rest, and we may note in general that different themes in oral poetry
tend to exhibit different trends in formaleven linguistic
development. To put it another way: different contexts are character
ized by different language. An explanation along these lines is surely
preferable to a favorite scenario of many experts, in which the Theogony
was somehow composed by a combination of one Hesiod and a plethora
of pseudo-Hesiods. Worse still, some will even attribute the constitution
of the poem to a dreary succession of redactors. Whatever the argu
ments for multiple authorship may be, there is predictably litde agree
ment about how much or how little can be attributed to the real Hesiod.
In sum, it seems preferable to treat all Hesiodic poems, including the
fragments, as variable manifestations of a far more extensive phenome
non, which is Hesiodic poetry.
Another obstacle to our understanding of Hesiodic poetry, perhaps
even harder to overcome, is the commonplace visualization of Hesiod as
a primitive landlubber of a peasant who is struggling to express himself
in a cumbersome and idiosyncratic poetic medium clumsily forged out
of an epic medium that he has not fully mastered. Hesiods self
dramatization as one who works the land for a living is thus assumed to
be simply a historical fact, which can then serve as a basis for conde
scending speculations about an eighth-century Boeotian peasants lowly
level of thinking. It is as if the poetry of Hesiod, and of Homer, for that
matter, were primitive raw material that somehow became arbitrarily uni
versalized by the Greeks as a point of reference for their poetry and rhet
oric in particular, and as the foundation of their civilization in general.
Of course, if critics go on to treat such poetry as a producer rather than
a product of the Greek poetic heritage, it is easy to find fault whenever
we fail to understand. Over the years Hesiod especially has been con
demned for many offenses against the sensibilities of modern literary
critics. Perhaps the most shortsighted of the many charges leveled
against him is that he is, on occasion, capable of forgetting his starting
point.
There are, to be sure, those who have articulately conveyed the
cohesiveness and precision of Hesiodic poetry. I single out the work of
Jean-Pierre Vernant, whose findings about such key Hesiodic themes as
Prometheus and the ascendancy of Zeus are so definitive that no attempt
need be made here to offer a summary.110 There is also the work of
109 West 1966.398.
110 Vernant 1974.103-120. 177-194.

Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

81

Peter Walcot, whose repertoire of Near Eastern parallels to aspects of the


Theogony and the Works and Days serves to illuminate the inner workings
of Hesiodic composition.111 The value of these analogues is not to be
underrated, and the absence of any mention of them up to this point
can be remedied by citing Martin Wests commentaries, which contain
an illustrative collection of references.112 It is worth noting, however,
that such Near Eastern parallelisms may in any given instance be a
matter of typology rather than of direct borrowing. Given the pervasive
ness of cross-cultural parallelisms in patterns of mythmaking, even the
most striking convergences in detail may turn out to be nothing more
than a typological analogue: I cite for example the Inca parallels to the
Pandora myth,113 which seem closer to the Hesiodic version than do
some of the Near Eastern parallels generally cited as Hesiod's sources."
One of the most neglected areas in the general study of Hesiod, as
also in this specific presentation, is the artistry of the poems. With our
fragmentary understanding of the Hesiodic tradition, some special
effects that would have delighted the intended audience will be forever
lost to us, while others will emerge only in their barest outlines. It seems
appropriate to bring this survey to a close with one such dimly perceived
set of special effects, illustrating simultaneously the richness of the poe
try and our own poverty of understanding.
In Works and Days 504-563, a portrait of winter and its harshness, the
North Wind is described as it descends upon trees along the side of a
mountain, penetrating the skin of all living things in its path with its cold
blast (507-518). The imagery here is pointedly sexual, as a study of
parallel imagery in other Indo-European tradition clearly shows.114 Then
follows (519-525) the contrasting image of a sensuous young girl taking
a bath in her warm and comfortable boudoir, safely sheltered from the
piercing wind and not yet knowing the ways of golden Aphrodite
(521); meanwhile, the anosteos 'boneless one is gnawing at his own foot
in his cold and wretched haunts (524-525). Now, the Greek word
anosteos has an Indie cognate anasthd- boneless one', a kenning for
penis,115 while the Greek word for gnaw, tendo (525), is related to the
Irish teinm (Iaido), gnawing [of marrow], a magical process leading to
knowledge by divination.116 Thus the boneless one, by gnawing his foot,

111 Walcot 1966.


112 West 1966,1978.
1,5 Sinclair 1932.13.
1u Watkins 1978a.231.
115 References in Watkins p. 233.
116 Watkins p.232.

82

The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics

is one who knows, in contrast with the inexperienced young girl, who
does not know ( 521).
But the allusiveness extends even further. The boneless one is also
to be understood as an octopus (compare the syntax of Works and Days
524, containing anosteos, with that of Hesiod F 204.129 MW, containing
dtrikhos hairless one = snake), an animal that is conventionally pictured
in Greek lore as eating its own feet when it is hungry.117 The hungry
octopus gnawing at its foot is described as living in cold and wretched
haunts ( Works and Days 525), and this image of poverty takes us back to
an earlier image of a poor man in winter, holding his swollen foot in his
emaciated hand (496-497); the Proclus commentary here cites an Ephe
sian law to the effect that a child could not be exposed until his fathers
feet were swollen with famine.118 Our thoughts turn to Oidtpous he
whose feet are swollen, and the story of his exposure.
In this connection we come to yet another occurrence of the word
poiis foot in this passage about winter: at Works and Days 533-535, the
winter storm is described as making everyone hunch over like a tripous
three-footed man (533; compare 518). This kenning, which desig
nates a man leaning on a walking stick, corresponds to the ainigma rid
dle of the Sphinx as solved by Oidipous (Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus
393, 1525).119 Like the boneless one who gnaws his foot (Works and
Days 524) and thereby knows by way of divination, Oedipus knows by vir
tue of solving the riddle of the Sphinx. The oracular tone of this passage
is sustained later (at Works and Days 571) with another kenning, phereoikos
he who carries his house (= snail), which is introduced by the expres
sion ali' hopot' an but whenever . . . (571), a frequent introductory
phrase in oracles.120
This much said, we are still typically far from understanding all the
implications of this passage, just as we are far from understanding all
that can be understood about Hesiod and his world.
A definitive assessment of Hesiods poems is elusive, since we still
know so litde about their background. The best hope is that there will
be further progress in rigorous internal analysis and in systematic com
parison with other attested Greek poetic traditions, so that tomorrows
reader may better appreciate the mechanics and esthetics of Hesiodic
poetry. Even so, we shall always fall far short, unable ever to recover all
that this poetry presupposes of its own audience at large.
1,7 References in West 1978.290.
118 West p. 284.
119 Cf. Asclepiades FGH 12 F 71 and the comments of West 1978.293.
m West p. 302.

PART II

THE HELLENIZATION
OF INDO-EUROPEAN
MYTH AND RITUAL

CHAPTER 4

Patroklos, Concepts of Afterlife,


and the Indie Triple Fire

The rituals occasioned by the Funeral of Patroklos, as narrated in


Iliad XXIII, have been compared with the royal funerary rituals of the
Hittites.1 The parallelisms in details and in ideology suggest a common
Indo-European heritage, in view of additional comparadve evidence
available from the Indie traditions.2 If indeed the Funeral of Patroklos
reflects an ideology so early as to be of Indo-European heritage, then a
basic criterion for the dating of narrative traditions in the Homeric
poems has to be revised. Archaeologists tend to interpret the cremation
of Patroklos in particular and of Homeric heroes in general as inspired
by practices that went into effect only in the first millennium B.C., when
cremation and inhumation are found to exist side by side; in this respect,
then, Homeric poetry is supposed to reflect a near-contemporary state of
affairs, as opposed to a more archaic heritage dating back to the
Mycenaean era of the second millennium B.C., a period when cremation
is sporadic and inhumation is the norm.3 The comparative evidence, on
the other hand, now suggests that the procedures and ideologies of cre
mation as attested in Homeric poetry are in fact so archaic as to predate
the second millennium B.C., thus reflectingalbeit distantly customs
that go back to a time even before the entry into Greece, in the begin
ning of the second millennium, of the Indo-European language that
1Christmann-Franck 1971, esp. pp. 61-64; cf. Vievra 1965. The edition of the Hittite
royal funerary texts; Otten 1958.
2Cf. Lowenstam 1981.152 on Rig-Veda 10.16.4 and 10.16.7 as compared with Iliad
XXIII 167-169; in both the Indie and the Greek passages, the corpse is covered with layers
of the fat o f sacrificial animals.
sCf. Andronikos 1968, esp. p. 76.

85

86

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

ultimately became the Greek language. Even more important for my


purposes, the comparative evidence also suggests that the cremation of
Patroklos is a traditional theme founded upon concepts of afterlife
beyond Hades.
For the moment, 1 choose the word afterlife instead of rebirth or
eschatology. These other words too are pertinent to my inquiry: as we
shall see in what follows, the Indo-European languages, Greek included,
abound with earlier patterns of thought concerning life after death.4
Still, it is useful to start with the most general term possible.
The concept of afterlife, as I argue, is implicit in the Homeric narra
tive of the cremation of Patroklos. Comparable concepts, as we shall see,
are explicitly attested in Indie institutions, especially as represented in
prayers to the god Savitr and in rituals involving the so-called Triple Fire.
After a detailed exposidon of the Indie evidence, soon to follow, we shall
also see that closely analogous concepts are representedalbeit
indirectly in the Greek evidence, specifically in the diedon of Homeric
poetry.5
In correlating various concepts of afterlife with the practice of crema
tion, I am not about to claim that cremation was the definitive IndoEuropean funerary ritual. I argue only that cremation was clearly one of
perhaps several different types of Indo-European funerary ritual. In any
discussion of differences in funerary practices, as in the case of crema
tion and inhumation, I wish to stress from the start that no universals
can be assumed for the thought-patternslet us continue to call them
ideologiestraditionally associated with such practices. The ritual
dimensions of cremation and inhumation may mean different things
in different societies or in different phases of the same society.6 Where
the two practices coexist in one society, they may conceivably convey two
distinct meanings.7 In other situations, coexistence may reflect a blur
ring of distinctions.8 In some contexts, a practice like inhumation may
not even imply anything about a given societys concepts of afterlife.9 In
other contexts, however, there is good reason to think that the same
4 For an introduction to the topic of Indo-European eschatology, cf. Lincoln
1986.119-140.
5 My comparative approach leads to conclusions that differ, at least in part, from those
of some more recent studies on the Greek concept o f the soul," such as Claus 1981 and
Bremmer 1983. For an accounting of these works, as well as those of Ireland and Steel
1975, Darcus 1979ab, and Garland 1981,1 cite the dissertation of Caswell 1986, to be pub
lished as a monograph.
6 Cf. Bremmer 1983.94-95.
7 Cf. Berard 1970.48-53, with reference to archaic Eretria.
8 Cf. Bremmer 1983.95.
9 Bremmer p. 95.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

87

practice of inhumation does indeed imply the concept of rebirth.10 To


take the stance of doubting in general the presence of such an ideology,
on the grounds that ua simple inhumation without the accompanying
idea of rebirth is often found,11 seems to me unjustified.12
Let us begin with the briefest possible summary of the evidence from
the Indie Vedas, representing the oldest attested Indie concepts of after
life.13 Before death the realm of consciousness, of both rational and
emotional functions, is the manas-. When death occurs, this manas- is
separated from the body, and in the process of this separadon mdnascan be either equated or paired with the word dsu-. After death, mdnasand asu- designate the disembodied conveyor of the dead persons iden
tity, sometimes represented as a frail and vulnerable homunculus who is
a miniature vision of the deceased as he seemed in life.14 Eventually,
mantis- an d /o r dsu- arrive at the third sky," where the pitfs ancestors
abide.15 The mdnas- an d /o r dsu- are destined to be reintegrated with the
body, and cremation of the body is the key to this eventual reintegra
tion.16
From a preliminary comparison with the archaic Greek evidence, we
see some striking convergences and divergences. Before death the
realm of consciousness, of rational and emotional functions, is the
thumos,1718which can be paired in this context with the word menos.ls
10 Cf. Berard p. 52 on the inhumation of children in archaic Eretria.
11 Bremmer 1983.97.
12 More on distinct ideologies associated with cremation, inhumation, and exposition in
chroters 5 and 6 below.
14 For a most useful synthesis, see Arbman 1926/1927. These articles also offer impor
tant typological observations on the Greek evidence. For bibliography surveying the
influence o f Arbmans work on further scholarship: Bremmer p. 10.
u In the story of Svitri, for example (Mahdbhdrata 3.281, critical ed.), Yama the king of
the ancestors and god of the dead extracts from the body of Svitrt's husband a thumb
sized person, whereupon the bodys breathing stops and symptoms of death appear. See
the commentary by Arbman 1927.79, 105-106, 110.
15 For a collection of passages, see Oldenberg 1917.533-534. See also his pp. 527-528
for a survey of passages in the Alharva-Veda where incantations are offered for the dying: it
is a persistent theme that mdnas and dsu must stay in the body for the dying to stay alive.
16 See Arbman 1927.90-100, esp. p. 93. This reintegration of body and mdnas-/dsu- is
envisioned as an eschatological process. In Jatmintya-Brhmaria 1.49.1 and following, for
example, the identity of the deceased leaves the body and goes from the smoke into the
night (dhmd vai mlrim apy eti) by way of cremation, then moving from the night into the
day and then into the dark half of the month and then into the light half of the month and
then into the month itself, whereupon the body and dsu- are finally reunited. Note that the
original separation of identity and body is here simultaneous with cremation, whereas in
other versions it is simultaneous with the moment o f death. For more on the theme of
dhumd- smoke in the fire of cremation, see pp. 115-116.
17 See Arbman 1926.185-191 and Bhme 1929.69-74.
18 Instances of thdmds and mmos paired: Iliad V 470, VI 72, XI 291, etc. See also N

88

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

When death occurs, the thmos is separated from the body, and in the
process of this separation thumos can be paired with the words minos or
pskhe.19 After death, pskhe designates the disembodied conveyor of the
dead persons identity, sometimes represented as a homunculus who is a
miniature vision of the deceased as he seemed in life.1920 I should stress
that the pskhe is merely a conveyor of identity, not the identity itself: in
Homeric diction, the word autos self actually designates the body, which
the pskhe leaves behind when the hero dies (e.g. Iliad I 5-4).21
Before death, the word pskhe is as a rule excluded from designating
the realm of consciousness, of rational and emotional functions;22 after
death, the words thumos and minos are as a rule excluded from designat
ing the disembodied conveyor of the dead persons identity.23 Only in
the process of death can all three words thmos/ minos/pskhe be fully
synonymous.24 As they are separated from the body, they head for
Hades.
1979a.l36-137 on Iliad XX 174 as contrasted with 171. Both words embrace physical as
well as mental aspects: on thmos see Redfield 1975.173 and on mmos see N 1974a.266-269.
Further work on thmos. Caswell 1986.
19 See Warden 1971 for a list of Homeric attestations. It has been argued that menos does
not technically leave the body at death, in that the verb 'was set loose, for which
mmos serves as subject in passages like Iliad V 296, conveys "a metaphor comparing the col
lapsing of the dead with the collapsing of horses when they are unharnessed after a tiring
ride (Bremmer p. 76). But we should note the pairing of mmos with pskhe as a correla
tive subject in this and other passages such as Iliad VIII 123, 315; the fact is, the pskhe is
indeed regularly conceived as leaving the body at the moment of death (e.g. XVI 856). So,
too, with the other potential correlate of menos, that is, thmos. it, too, leaves the body at the
moment of death (e.g. XXIII 880). Moreover, the act of releasing a horse, as conveyed by
the verb set loose, can be a matter of starting to drive it away (as e.g. at Iliad X 498), not
just stopping it after having driven it (as e.g. at V 369). In other words, the combination of
was set loose with mmos as subject may imply that the horse races off while the
chariot from which it has just been unharnessed is left behind. Similarly in metaphorical
descriptions of fatigue, mmos can be visualized as becoming separated from the body (cf.
the collocation of dia-knno separate with mmos at II 387).
20 For representations of the pskhe o f Patroklos and even of Achilles as such homunculi
in Black Figure iconography, see Stabler 1967, esp. pp. 32-33, 44. On the Mnster Hydria
(inv. no. 565), the miniature figure of Patroklos is actually labeled 'pskhe': Sthler
p. 14. On pp. 28-29, Sthler argues cogently that such iconographical representations of
pskhe have a pre-Homeric heritage. See further at p. 220 below.
21 Cf. N 1979a.208. The concept of pskhe has a built-in tension between identity and
nonidentity, as Jean-Pierre Vernant (1985 (1962] .330) observes in connection with the
pskhe of Patroklos when it appears to Achilles: V e s t la presence de Iami, mais eest aussi
son absence irremediable; eest Patrocle en personne, mais aussi bien un souffle, une
fumee, une ombre ou 1envoi d un oiseau.
22 See Arbman 1926.191-198. I disagree, however, with the argument against any con
nection between pskhe and the semantic sphere of breathing: see pp. 90-91.
25 See Arbman 1926.185-191 and 1927.165. Consider also the Homeric expression
persons of the dead, without mmos' (Odyssey x 521,536; xi 29, 49).
On the Creek visualizations of head as person." see Warden 1971.97.
24 Cf. Bhme 1929.103; also Schnaufer 1970.180.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

89

In some Homeric variations, however, arrival at Hades may be


delayed. For example, after the pskhe of Patroklos has been separated
from his body by death (Iliad XVI 856), it leaves for Hades (XVI 856),
but is thwarted from entering (XXIII 72-74); in a vision (XXIII 65ff.)
the psukhe of Patroklos asks Achilles to give his body a funeral in general
(XXIII 71) and a cremation in particular (XXIII 76), so that his psukhe
may finally enter Hades (XXIII 71, 75-76). Achilles is astounded that
the psukhe of Patroklos has phrenes (XXIII 103-104).2526We must note that
this word phrenes designates the physical localization of thmos* and
ictum27 in the living. Indeed, what the psukhe of Patroklos says to
Achilles in Iliad XXIII 65-92 are the words of one who appears to be
conscious of himself, in possession of his rational and emotional facul
ties.28 By implication, the psukhe of Patroklos can become detached or
distinct from his thmos/ menos and become free to enter Hades only
after his body is cremated.29
On the surface, then, it seems as if the Homeric poems point to
Hades as the ultimate destination of the psukhe. Moreover, once the pro
cess of cremation enables the psukhe to arrive at Hades, it is liable to lose
consciousness as well as rational and emotional faculties, and we are left
with the initial impression that the dead person stays dead forever. Here
we see a major divergence from the Indie formulation, where the mdnasan d /o r dsu- not only preserve consciousness and the faculties but also
become eventually reintegrated with the body by way of cremation. Yet the
divergence lies not in what the Greek formulation says about the afterlife
but rather in what it leaves unsaid. Let us keep in mind that, conscious
or unconscious, the psukhe is a conveyor of identity. Thus the door is
still left open for the possibility that the psukhe may yet be reintegrated
with the body. A word like thmos or like menos may at first seem from
our point of view more appropriate for designating the aspect that is
separated and then hypothetically reintegrated with the body, since both
thmos and menos designate consciousness and the faculties. In fact, as
we have just noted, thmos and menos are synonymous with pskhe at the
moment of death. Yet these very words thmos and menos cease to apply
to the identity once it passes through the gates of Hades: from here on,
25 See Schnaufer pp. 77-79 for an interpretation of these two verses; the of verse
104, as he shows, indicates the unexpected and contradictory factor (that is, the presence
of phrenes) . Achilles is in effect saying: "So there really is a pskhe, even outside of Hades, a
mere imageand yet it is conscious (= has phrenes) !"
26 E.g. tUad X 232, IX 462. XIII 487, etc.
27 E.g. Iliad l 103. XXI 145; Odyssey i 89, etc.
28 Moreover, the pskhe of Patroklos is at this time not miniature (Iliad XXIII 66).
29 At p. 87nl6, we have seen a corresponding Indie theme, that the identity of the dead
person is separated from his body by way of the dhumd- smoke of cremation.

90

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

the identity is conveyed by pskhe only. This suspension of synonymity is


itself telling us something: that the pskhe once had an affinity with cons
ciousness and the facultiesan affinity which is then suspended in
Hades.
My interpretation here differs from the view that any absence of
synonymity between Ichseele (e.g. thmos/ menos) and Psycheseele
(e.g. pskhe) in the mythopoeic thinking of any primitive culture
invariably implies an original distinctness between the two concepts.30
What I propose is that the distinctness, as in the case of thmos/ menos on
one side and pskhe on the other, may be a secondary developmenta
matter of secondary specialization. In other words, the convergence in
meaning between thmos/ menos and pskhe may be primary and the
divergence, secondary. Then we can account for such rare exceptions
as Iliad VII 131 (where the thmos goes to Hades) and XXI 569 (where
the pskhe abides in a living hero) as residual traces of an earlier ideo
logy where thmos/ menos and pskhe were as yet undifferentiated in
realms where they are later differentiated.
My interpretation is also at odds with the view that the Homeric
pskhe is not a Psycheseele but a mere Totengeist.31 The reasoning
behind this disputed view is based on the conventional diction describ
ing the swooning of a hero: the pskhe is regularly envisaged as leaving
the body, but it is never mentioned as returning when the hero revives?* Only
the thmos or menos are mentioned as returning to the hero when he is
revived.33 For some, this restriction in diction means that Homer did
not know of any function that could be attributed to pskhe in the living
herothat the word pskhe simply did not denote consciousness.34
And yet, as even those who prefer this explanation have to concede,35
the concept of pskhe is indeed derived from the concept of breathing (cf.
Homeric psukh blow, with winds as subject, at XX 40), the loss of
which is the primary manifestation of death in the conventional
Homeric descriptions. The words thmos and menos are also associated
with breathing.36 Accordingly, the descriptions of both swooning and
50 E.g. Arbman 1927.159-160.
51 Bhme 1929.124.

52See Schnaufer 1970.194-195 for a useful chart of passages.


35 For thmos see Iliad XXII 475; Odyssey v 458, xxiv 349; for menos see Kad XV 60 and 262
as discussed by Schnaufer pp. 192-193.
54 Bhme 1929.111, 124.
55 Bhme pp. 22 and 124, pace Arbman 1926.194-195; for a fuller discussion, see
Schnaufer 1970.198-201.
36 Consider the collocation of he breathed again' with the revival of the thmos
at Iliad XXII 475, Odyssey v 458, xxiv 349; also the collocation of / he
[Apollo] breathes/breathed with object menos [into Hektor] at Iliad XV 60 and 262 (cf.
n33).

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

91

dying as a loss of thmos/ menos/pskhe are physiologically appropriate


and proper, and yet the regaining of the heros breath after swooning is
restricted in Homeric diction to thmos/ menos, with pskhe excluded.
The reason for this exclusion is surely not physical but ideological. To
repeat, it has been argued that pskhe is excluded because it does not
denote consciousness, whereas thmos/ menos regularly do. But this argu
ment is predicated on the assumption that pskhe is distinct from
thmos/ menos at the moment when they become separated from the
body. This is to confuse words with concepts, and I must insist here on
returning to the facts of Homeric diction. What leaves the body at the
moment of dying or swooning is functionally expressed as thmos
an d /o r menos an d /o r pskhe. At the moment of dying or swooning, all
three words are formulaically interchangeable synonyms, expressing the
same concept37
If, then, the word pskhe is excluded in descriptions of revival from
swooning, it is because this synonym of thmos/ menos at the moment of
dying and swooning has at other moments a meaning that goes beyond
the concept of breath or even the concept of consciousness. Some
would argue that this meaning is simply that of ghost: once the pskhe
is in Hades, the reasoning goes, it cannot return to the body of someone
who has swooned because the pskhe would already be a ghostand its
owner would already be dead.38 Yet, this reasoning again fails to account
for the factas established by observation of Homeric dictionthat
pskhe is synonymous with thmos/ menos at the moment of dying or
swooning. It cannot simply be assumed that pskhe should mean one
thing when a hero swoons and another thing when he is revived.
There may be a more sublime reason for the avoidance of the word
pskhe in Homeric descriptions of a hero's revival. As we have noted, the
synonymity of thmos/ menos/pskhe at the moment of death implies an
affinity of pskhe with consciousnessan affinity that is then suspended
in Hades. If it is simply a matter of suspension, however, then the door
is left open for imagining an eventual restoration of synonymity, with all
three words thmos/ menos/pskhe once again capable of designating the
identity of the deceased. The setting for such a restoration is, I submit,
the eventual reintegration of the pskhe and body, when the deceased
comes back to life. In that case, the avoidance of the word pskhe in
descriptions of a heros revival from a swoon would be motivated by a
need to keep this theme distinct from the theme of a heros revival from
death. Elsewhere, I have attempted to document this theme, the heros
37 For an instant demonstration, see tables 1, 2, and 3 in Warden 1971.102.
38 Cf. Schnaufer 1970.201.

92

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

revival from death, on the basis of the internal evidence available in the
diction in Greek poetic traditions.39 In that effort, however, I did not
confront what the Iliad has to say, albeit indirectly, about the afterlife of
Patroklos. Which is the problem at handa problem that may be
solved, I submit, by now pursuing even further the semantics of th
mos/ menos/ pskhe.
Exceptionally, the restoration of synonymity for thmos/ menos/pskhe
can happen in Hades itself. The pskhe of the seer Teiresias (Odyssey x
492) is described as the only one in Hades to be endowed with phrenes (x
493) , which as we have seen is the physical localization of thmos and
menos.40412Accordingly, the pskhe of Teiresias is the only one in Hades to
recognize Odysseus without having to drink blood (xi 91). To be con
trasted are the other pskhai who are as a rule "without faculties
(aphradees xi 476) except whenever they get to drink a libation of blood
(xi 147-149).41 The reason for my drawing attention at this point to the
exceptional pskhe of Teiresias has to do with yet another crucial word,
one that serves to explain why Teiresias has phrenes even in Hades: Perse
phone had given him noos (x 494). This word, which here epitomizes
the synonymity of thmos/ menos/pskhe,*2 is as a rule used in Homeric
diction to designate the realm of rational functions only,43 whereas
thmos is used to designate the realm of both rational and emotional
functions.44 As such, noos represents a mere subcategory of thmos in the
living Homeric hero. Why, then, should this word be a key, in Odyssey x
494, to the synonymity of thmos/ menos/pskhe and, by implication, to
the reintegration of consciousness and body?
The etymology of noos provides an answer. As the researches of Doug
las Frame have established,45 the root of noos is *nes-, which means not
just return home, as attested in Greek neomai (verb) and nostos (noun),
but also return to light and life, as apparently attested in Indie
39 See e.g. N 1979a. 165-168 (also p. 208) on Odyssey iv 561-569, xi 601-604, and Hesiod
F 25.25-28 MW. In the case of anapsukhein reanimate at Odyssey iv 568, the themes of
revival from death and revival from a swoon actually converge: N 1979a. 167168 28n2.
Cf. also p. 142 on Iliad V 677 (Sarpedon is revived from a swoon by a blast from Boreas the
North Wind).
40 Seep. 89.
41 Cf. Schnaufer 1970.67.
42 See also Iliad XVIII 419, where noos is explicitly said to be localized in the phenes. As
Bhme 1929.65 puts it, noos can designate the ego while phenes designates the organ of
the ego."
43 See Bhme p. 75. The description rational' may be too broad here: cf. Fritz 1943.
Such words as intuitive* or perceptive" may be more appropriate.
44 For a list of attestations where rational functions are attributed to thmos in Homeric
diction, see Bhme p. 72nl; as for the emotional functions, see his pp. 69-71.

45 Frame 1978.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

93

Nasatyau, an epithet of the Indie Divine Twins, the Asvin-s who bring
mortals back to life and who bring about sunrise after the night brought
on by each sunset.46 As Frame also shows, there is in fact a pervasive
interplay between the themes of noos and nostos in the Odyssey, so that the
fundamental meaning of the root
return to light and life, is
reenacted within the overall structure of this epic; in other words, the
Odyssey itself is built on the symbolism of rebirth from death, as visualized
in the dynamics of sunrise after sunset and as verbalized in the
noos/ nostos of Odysseus himself.47 Within the space of the present discus
sion, I cannot do full justice to the evidence and arguments that Frame
adduces. Rather, I am simply confining myself to the problem of con
necting the death of Patroklos with the semantics of thumos/ menos/psukhe. Still, the etymology of noos, which functions in Homeric
diction as a subcategory of thumos and as a principle that re
unites thumos/ menos/psukhe in synonymity, can serve as an ideal point of
transition to the main part of this presentationa survey of assorted evi
dence available in Indie traditions that may throw light on the afterlife of
Patroklos. If this evidence will help strengthen Frames own arguments,
then I hope that he will accept my efforts here as a tribute to his own.
Indie traditions formalize the theme of returning to light and life in
more ways than one. Besides the Nasatyau, I cite a Vedic sun-god called
Saxritr-, appropriately meaning the vivifier (root sd- vivify). As we shall
see, Savitrs solar journey enables the aspects of man that leave the body
at death to be reintegrated in the realm of the pitfs ancestors. Since
the comparative evidence of the Savitr tradition is both ample and com
plex, it may be best to anticipate here the conclusions that I plan to draw
from this evidence at a later point. What will emerge is that the Indie
words designating the aspects of man that leave the body at death,
mdnas- and dsu-, are actually cognate with the Homeric noun + epithet
combinadon menos eu ( ), designadng in general the energetic
faculties of heroes (e.g. Iliad XX 80) and, in particular, the aspect of
Patroklos that has been lost as a result of death (XXIV 6).
The correspondence between the Indie noun mdnas- and the Greek
noun menos is overt. As for the Indie noun dsu- and the Greek adjective
46 For a collection of these themes in Indie lore, see Frame pp. 134-152; cf. also Guntert
1923.253-276 and N 1979a. 198-200. On the morphology of Indie Nasatyau, see Frame
pp. 135-137; cf. Greek luxmpetie, as discussed at p. 249n80. (The attestation of disyllabic
scansion for the first vowel of Nasatyau [naasatyau] remains a problem.) For a survey of the
Indo-European myth of the Divine Twins, see Ward 1968; cf. also Joseph 1983 and David
son 1987. Further discussion of the Divine Twins, including the Greek Dioskouroi, at pp.
255-256.
47 Frame pp. 34-80. For other aspects of the theme of rebirth in the Odyssey, see Newton
1984.

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The HeHenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

eu (), the correspondence on the levels of both form and meaning is


complicated, and further discussion is useless until we can review the
comparative evidence preserved in Iranian traditions.48
Suffice it now to add another overt comparandum besides Indie
manas- on one side and Greek menos on the other: the Indie word pitrancestor is direedy cognate with the Greek element patro- of Patro-klees,
a name that literally means he who has the glory [kleos] of the ancestors
[patens]'.*9 In view of Erwin Rohdes observation that the Funeral of
Patroklos in the Iliad bears the distinct features of hero cult50 and that
the cult of heroes is itself an institution that evolved from the worship of
ancestors,51 we may recover an Indo-European theme in comparing the
association of menos eu (= ) and Patroklees in the context of that
heros death with the association of manas-/ dsu- and the pitr-s ancestors
in the context of their coming back to life after death.
Having anticipated my conclusions from the comparative Indie evi
dence about Savitr and his role in bringing the dead back to life, I will
now present this evidence to the extent that I am able to sketch it
without oversimplifying its rich complexities.52*
As we begin to examine the traditions about this specialized sun-god
Savitr, we note that there are contexts of darkness as well as brightness.
Savitr protects the righteous at night (Rig-Veda 4.53.1) and wards off the
demonic Raksas-es all night (1.35.10).55 The time of these Raksas-es is the
48 Sec pp. 118ff.
49 For patera as ancestors, see e.g. Iliad VI 209; for more on the semantics of Patroklees,
see N 1979a. 102ff.
50 Rohde 1898 1:14-22, esp. p. 16nl. See also Stabler 1967.32, who argues that the pic
ture on the Munster Hydria (p. 88n20 above) represents the beginning of the hero cult of
Patroklos.
51 Rohde 1:108-110: see also N 1979a. 114-115. Cf. p. 116nll9 for thematic connections
between the concept of ancestor and the actual word hems () hero. In view of the
inherited relationship of this word with hem () season, seasonality, timeliness' (on
which see Ptscher 1961), we may compare the Indie representation of seasonal eschatol
ogy as outlined at p. 87nl6.
52 The patterns that I have found are clearly not the only ones attested in Indie tradi
tions. I am persuaded by the account, in Witzel 1984, of alternative traditions, featuring
alternative visualizadons, especially with regard to the backward or reversed course of
celesdal bodies, the oceans of the sky, and the abode of Yama.
M In both these passages, Savitr is invoked as Asura (asura). In a future project, I hope
to show in detail that this epithet was primarily appropriate to Dyaus (dydus) sky
personified, cognate of Greek Zeus (), in contexts where the god Dyaus is ambivalently
beneficent or maleficent (cf. the applicadons of asura- to dydus at Rig-Veda 1.122.1, 1.131.1,
8.20.17, etc.). As Dyaus becomes obsolescent, specialized sky-gods like Savitf inherit the
epithet Asura in contexts of ambivalence. In the plural, however, Asura becomes onesidedly bad, designadng demons only, while Deva (devd-), derivative of Dyaus (dyaus),
becomes one-sidedly good, designadng gods only. In the Iranian tradidons of the Avesta,
on the other hand, the original sky-god remains head of the universe, but only under the
name of Ahum-, cognate of Indie asura-; meanwhile, the Iranian cognate of Indie Dyaus
(dydus) survives only in a derivative form, daeuua-, cognate of Indie devd-. Moreover, all

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

95

night (7.104.18); in the east they have no power, because they are wiped
out by the rising sun (Taittiriya-Samhita 2.6.6.3). As the RigVeda makes
clear, the daily breakthrough to light in the east is caused by Savitr
(10.139.1). How, then, can the sun-god Savitr be present at night? As
we see from Rig-Veda 1.35, the Savitr Hymn, the god reverses the course
of his chariot with each sunrise and sunset: he travels through the bright
ness at day and then through the darkness at night. During the night
trip, he is the good aspect of darkness, just as he is the good aspect of
brightness during the day trip. The night trip of Savitr is especially pre
carious for mortals not only because of the darkness but also because the
daylight course of the sun is reversed. After the forward course of the
chariot at daytime comes the backward course at nighttime. This
forward/backward movement of Savitr is expressed in terms of
downstream/upstream, the words for which are proved-/udvdl:*54
yati devdh pravdtd ydty udvdtd
Rig-Veda 1.35.3
T h e D eva [god] goes dow nstream , goes u p stream .55

It remains to ask where it is that Savitr travels upstream," from west


daeuuas are bad, demons only. I follow Schlerath 1968.144-145 in interpreting the mor
phological segmentation of Indo-lranian *asura- to be *as-ura-, the root of which I am
inclined to reconstruct as Indo-European *es- to be'. I agree with Schlerath that *asura- is
not derived directly from Indo-lranian *asu-; going beyond Schleraths own arguments, I
venture to propose that both forms *asu- and *asura- are derived from the root *as- (IndoEuropean *es-, that is, *h,es-). For more on Indo-lranian *asu- (Indie dsu-, Iranian ahu),
see pp. 118ff.
54Cf. Rig-Veda 5.31, where Indra is represented as driving the chariot of the sun (stanza
11) as he repels the darkness (stanza 3, etc.), and where he specifically makes his chariot
go pravdt- 'downstream* forward:
indro rdihya pravtam kmoti
Rig-Veda 5.31.1
Indra drives the chariot forward
At Rig-Veda 1.181.3, India's chariot is described as pravdtvanl- moving downstream'. Else
where in the RigVeda, as at 7.50.3, pravdt- means not the downstream specifically but simply
the stream: here 'downstream' is further specified as nivdt-, as opposed to udvdtupstream*. Just as the unmarked path of the sun is simply the path of the sun, so also the
unmarked downstream is simply the stream. One need specify 'downstream' only in opposi
tion to upstream: otherwise it is just stream.
MOn the word deva- god, sec p. 94n53. It is in the precarious nighttime context of
the suns direction reversed that Savitf is euphemistically called sunithd- heading in the
good direction (RigVeda 1.35.7, 10). It is precisely in this ambivalent context (1.35.10)
that Savitf is called Asura (on which see again n53).

96

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

to east, during the night.56 The Rig-Veda is ostentatiously cryptic about


the suns whereabouts at nighttime, offering only such indications as in
the following verses of the Savitr Hymn:
kvedantm suryah ks ciketa
kalam am dyam rasm tr asya tatna
Rig-Veda

1.35.7

Where is the sun now? Who knows?


Which sky has its ray reached?

A further indication about this unmentionable sky occurs in stanza 6 of


the same Savitr Hymn, where Savitr is described as having two skies.
From such indirect mystical hints we may surmise that the sky of this our
world is matched by another sky, of the underworld. Furthermore, there
is a third sky mentioned in the same stanza (Rig-Veda 1.35.6), this one
belonging to Yama rather than Savitr; it is in this third sky that immortal
things abide (amrtadhi tasthur), and
ih bravitu y u tdc ciketat
Rig-Veda

1.35.6

whoever knows it should say it here.

The name Yama refers to the king of the pitfs ancestors (Rig-Veda
10.14 passim), particularly the Angiras-es (10.14.3, 5), and his path is
death (1.38.5). He is the first person ever to experience death (AtharvaVeda 18.3.13), and he is specifically addressed as our pitT (Rig-Veda
10.135.1). Yet the abode of Yama and the pitf* is in the midst of the sky
(10.15.14), in the highest sky (10.14.8), in the third sky which has eter
nal light and where the sun was placed (9.113.7-9). The abode of the
pitf-s is the highest point of the sun (9.113.9), and they are in commun
ion with it (1.125.6, 10.107.2, 10.154.5). Thus, the third sky of Yama
could be visualized as above the first sky of Savitr, who goes pravdtdownstream during the day; come sunset, Savitr reaches the dreaded
second sky of the lower world, where he travels udvdt- upstream during
the night.
How, then, did Yama the primordial mortal reach the third sky?
56The patterns that I have found in answer to this question, as 1outline them in what fol
lows, are clearly not the only ones attested in Indie traditions. Again I refer to Witzel 1984.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

97

Come sunrise, he ascends along with the sun, traveling pravdt- down
stream:
parcyivdtnsam pravdlo m ahir dnu
bahubhyah panthm anupaspasdndm
Rig-Veda

10.14.1

having gone along the great pravdt- streams,


having discovered a path for many.

In the Atharva-Veda (6.28.3, 18.4.7), Yama is described as the first ever to


have gone along the pravdt-. Before reaching the third sky with the com
ing of sunrise, it may be that Yama, the first person ever to experience
death, is imagined as having to traverse the unmentionable second sky
with the coming of sunset. A model and guide for this kind of trip could
be Savitr himself.
The role of Savitr as psychopomp is illustrated by such passages as
Rig-Veda 10.17.3-6: according to the Kalpa to Taittiriya-ranyaka 6.1.1,
this text is a prayer for the dead at the ritual of cremation; Savitr is
implored to place the dead man into the abode of the pitr-%:
ydtrasaU sukrto ydtra teyays
Ultra tvd devdh savitd dadhtu
Rig-Veda

10.17.4

where the doers of good abide, where they have gone,


there may the Deva [god] Savitr put you [the dead man].5758

In the function of psychopomp, Savitr has a thematic correlate called


Psan; in the same Savitr passage (10.17.5) this Psan is implored to
guide the dead man along the least dangerous path (dbhayatamma),
being a bestower of well-being (svastida) Like Savitr, Psan is associ
ated with the path of the sun {Rig-Veda 2.40.4-5, 6.56.3, 6.58.2); in fact, it
is the theme of the suns path that makes Savitr and Psan overlap in
identity:

57 On the word de- god, see again p. 94n53.


58 Cf. the semantics of suniiha- heading in the good direction* (Rig-Veda 1.35.7, 10), as
discussed at p. 95n55.

98

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual


uUi p sa bhavasi deva yamabhih
Rig-Veda

5.81.5

and you, Deva (the god Savitf] become Psan by your movements.

Previously, the movements of Savitr had just been described:


utd ratrim ubhaydlah pdrtyasa

RigVedabA\A
and you [Savitr] go around the night on both sides.

From the other contexts,59 we may assume here that Savitf goes east to
west when night is below us and west to east when night is above us. Sav
itr and Psan are correlates elsewhere, too, in the Rig-Veda (3.62.9-10,
10.139.1), but it will suffice here to consider only their correlation in
solar movement60
In the same hymn where Savitr and Psan function as correlate
psychopomps, the solar movements of Psan are described in the follow
ing mystical language:
pm pathe patham ajanista psa
pm pathe divdh prdpathe prthivyah
ubhe abh i priydtam e sadhdsthe
a ca para ca carati pm jdndn
Rig-Veda

10.17.6

at the extremity of paths was Pusan bom,


at the extremity of the sky, at the extremity of the earth;
over both most dear sadhdstha -s
he goes to and fro, knowing [the way].

Two basic questions are: (1) what is the extremity of sky/earth and (2)
what are the two sadhdstha-* abodes of the sun?
A bivalent answer can be derived from the Indie concept of Sky and
Earth as surrounded by Ocean, on all sides. This concept is implicit in a
Rig-Vedic theme that has it that all streams and rivers flow into the
Samudra Ocean (1.32.2, 1.130.5, 2.19.3), as also in another theme,
59 See pp. 94ff.
60 Since Savitf is called Asura specifically in the context of his movements (Rig-Veda
1.35.10), it is important to stress that Psan, too, is called Asura (5.51.11). See again p.
94n53.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

99

which has it that there is an East Ocean and a West Ocean (10.136.5), or
that there are four Oceans (9.33.6). These concepts seem to be based
on mythopoeic patterns of cosmic order rather than geographical
experience, so that there is room for believing also in an upper Ocean
matching the Sky as well as a lower Ocean matching the Earth (cf.
10.98.5, 12). But this distinction is just a sophisticated elaboration: the
basic idea remains that the Ocean comes between where the Earth stops
and the Sky begins. It follows, then, that the sun submerges in the
Ocean at sunset and emerges from it at sunrise; in fact, this concept is
explicit in the testimony of the Taittiriya-Aranyaka (4.42.33) and the
Aitareya-Brahmana (4.20.13; cf. also Atharva-Veda 13.2.14). Thus the birth
of Psan from the extremity of Sky/Earth (again, Rig-Veda 10.17.6) must
mean that the sun was born of the Ocean.61 It must be for this reason
that Pusans solar correlate Savitr is specifically called apam ndpdt pro
geny of the waters (1.22.6); furthermore, Savitr as Apm Napt even
knows such secrets as where the fountainhead of the Ocean gushes forth
(10.149.2). As for the two sadhdstha-s abodes of Psan (10.17.6), they
must be the Sky and the Ocean: as he travels to and fro (a ca pdm ca
carati), he goes east to west in the Sky at day and, somehow, west to east
at night after having plunged into the Ocean.
To be contrasted with the two sadhdstha-s of Pusan are the three
sadhdstha-s of the fire-god Agni (Rig-Veda 3.20.2, etc.); in fact, one of
Agni's epithets is tri-sadhasthd- having three sadhdstha-s (5.4.8, etc.).
Unlike the fire of the sun, which has abodes only in the sky and in the
water, Agni as sacrificial fire abides also on earth. The word agni- itself
means fire, cognate with Latin ignis. Agni as god links the microcosm
of sacrificial fire with the macrocosm of celestial fire. As sacrificial fire,
Agni is kindled on earth at dawn so that the sun may rise (4.3.11, 5.6.4).
If there were no sacrificial fire at dawn, there would be no sunrise
(Satapatha-Brhmana 2.3.1.5). From a cosmic point of view, Agni himself
caused the sun to rise (Rig-Veda 10.156.4).6263
The three sadhdstha-s abodes of Agni correspond to three different
proveniences of Agni, and the Rig-Veda reveals them in the following
order (10.45.1):65
61 There is a cognate theme in Greek traditions: the sun rises from and sets into the
heans Ocean (e.g. Iliad VII 421-423 and VIII 485 respectively), visualized as a cosmic
river that surrounds an Earth that is round and flat: for further discussion, see N
1979a. 195. In the death wish of Penelope, Odyssey xx 61-65, the thms spirit after death
is visualized as traveling to the far west, where it is plunged into the Okeanos: see p. 237.
This plunge implicitly parallels the plunge of the sun itself: p. 246.
62 For further discussion of this theme: pp. 147ff.
63 Cf. also Rig-Veda 8.44.16, 10.2.7, 10.46.9.

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The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

First, Agni is bom in the Sky, as lightning;64


Second, Agni is bom on Earth, as sacrificial fire;
Third, Agni is bom in the Ocean, as the risen sun.

Let us examine in more detail the third provenience of Agni. Like


the sun-god Savitr, the water-bom third Agni is also called apam ndpat
progeny of the waters (Rig-Veda 3.1.12-13, 3.9.1, etc.). Elsewhere,
Apm Napt seems to exist as a separate entity (10.30.3-4, etc.); he is
celebrated in one whole hymn (2.35), but even here he is identified with
Agni in the last stanza. Just as Savitr as specialized sky-god has features
derivable from Dyaus Sky656so also Apm Napt: whereas Savitr is called
the prajapati-, the creator of the universe (4.53.2),66 Apm Napt is
described as the one who created all things (visitant. . . bhuvan jajna
2.35.2) .67
The Vedic figure Apm Napt is so ancient that there is a formal
analogue in the Iranian evidence: the Avestan figure Ap?m Napa.68
While other thematic evidence about Ap^m Nap is elusive, he is known
to have the epithet auruuat.aspa- having swift horses (Yost 19.51 J;69 oth
erwise, this word serves only to describe the huuar- sun (Yast 10.90,
etc.). There is a thematic parallel in the Rig-Vedic word dsuheman- driv
ing swift horses, which serves as epithet for Apm Napt (2.31.6, 2.35.1,

7.47.2) ; he is transported by horses as swift as thought itself (1.186.5).70


In Rig-Veda 1.162, a hymn celebrating the sacrificial horse, it is
specifically Psans goat that leads the horse to its immolation (stanzas
2-3). In fact, Psans chariot is regularly drawn by goats (1.138.4;
6.55.3-4, 6; 6.57.3; 6.58.2); by contrast, Savitrs chariot is drawn by
64 Cf. Rig-Veda 1.143.2, 3.2.13, 6.6.2, etc.; cf. also Agnis common epithet Vaidyuta he of
the ifidyut- [lightning]* in the Brahmana*.
65 See p. 94n53.
66 According to the Taittiriya-Brdhmana (1.6.4.1), Prajapati became Saviqr and created the
universe.
67 This creation of all things by Apm Napt is done asuryasya mahna with the greatness
of Asura-power' (Rig-Veda 2.35.2). Like the sun-god Savitf, Agni too is called Asura (4.2.5,
5.15.1, 7.2.3. etc.). On the title Asura, see again p. 94n53.
66Just as the Indie Apm Napt uses the greatness of Asura-power (see n67), so too the
Iranian Apam Nap is called brxant?m ahunm the high Ahura ( Vasna 2.5, etc.). On the
Indic/Iranian correspondences of Asura/Ahura, see p. 94n53.
69 The context of the epithet having swift horses is this: the fire-god Atar and the
demon Dahka have been fighting to a standstill over i f a n nah- brilliance of glory; then
Apam Nap, the auruuat.aspa- having swift horses, seizes the Hannah- and takes it to the
bottom of the Ocean. For parallel themes in Persian epic traditions, most notably in the
Shhnma of Ferdowsi, see Davidson 1985.86-103. For Celtic parallels, see Dumezil
1973.21 and following.
70 Cf. the Laconian custom of sacrificing horses to Helios the sun-god on a peak of
Mount Taygetos (Pausanias 3.20.4). On the solar symbolism of horses in Greek mythology:
N 1979a. 198-200,209-210 50n2.

PairokJos and the Indie Triple Fire

101

horses (7.45.1; cf. 1.35.3, 5). Therefore, the ritual symbolism of having
the sacrificial goat of Psan precede the sacrificial horse can be related
with mythological symbolism: just as the goat is the horses guide in
ritual, so also Psan is Savitrs guide in myth. From the conventional
association of Indie Apm Napt and of Iranian Apam Napa with horses,
it follows that the designation of Savitr the sun-god as Apm Napt
(1.22.6) is old enough to be a part of the shared Indo-Iranian heritage
and is due to his own solar association with horses (7.45.1); by contrast,
Psan is called Apm Napt nowhere in the Rig-Veda, presumably
because he is associated with goats, not horses. In their function as solar
psychopomps, Savitr and Psan may be correlates,71 but not so in terms
of the epithet Apm Napt: the inherited phraseology of this expression
requires association with horses, not goats.
When it comes to the death and rebirth of man, Apm Napt serves as
a solar model rather than solar guide. The celestial fire plunges into the
waters at sunset, only to be reborn from them at sunrise. As a parallel,
the sacrificial horse is immolated so that it may draw the chariot of the
sun come sunrise, but its guide is the goat. In the Rig-Vedic hymn to
Apm Napt, sun and horse are parallel as they rise at dawn:
dsvasyatrajantmdsyd ca svdr
Rig-Veda 2.35.6
There (in the waters) is the birthplace of the horse and this sun.72

For the function of enacting mans rebirth after death, there is an ele
ment missing in the figure of Apm Napt; as the hymn composed spe
cially for him makes clear, Apm Napt is Apm Napt only in the waters
and in the sky, but on earth he becomes someone else:
so apatn dnabhtmlalavarno'
nydsytvehd tanva vivesa
R ig-V *ia2.S5A 3

Apm Napt, with imperishable radiance,


is at work here [on earth] with the body of another.

This other is then identified in the last stanza of the hymn as Agni him
self, in his function as sacrificial fire (2.35.15). Thus whereas Agni is
71 See p. 97.
72 On a cognate theme in the Iliad: N 1979a.209-210 50n2.

102

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Apm Napt, Apm Napt is not Agni in all respects. Specifically, Apm
Napt lacks one of Agnis three aspects: he is not at work on earth.
To round out this complex picture of the tripartite Agni, let us briefly
consider his first provenience. Besides the earth-born Second Agni of
the sacrificial fire and the water-bom Third Agni of the sun, there is also
the sky-bom First Agni of lightning (Rig-Veda 10.45.13; also 1.143.2,
3.2.13, 6.6.2). While the water-bom Agni has two sadhdsthas abodes',
Sky and Ocean, the sky-bom Agni in the form of lightning can go
directly from Sky to Earth through the antdriksa- intermediate space
(6.8.2, 10.65.2).
The tripartite distribution of Agni is subject to a number of confu
sions. As lightning, sky-born Agni qualifies as being in the third sky {RigVeda 1.143.2, etc.); yet the sky-bom Agni is the first Agni. Also, with the
concept of celestial waters matching terrestrial waters (1.32.2, 12, etc.), it
may seem tempting to imagine the water-born Agni as not only the sun
but also lightning; and yet, Indie ritual shows that water-bom Agni was
basically incompatible with the fire of lightning: according to the
Satapatha-Brdhmana (12.4.4.4; cf. Aitareya-Brahmarm 7.7), the Agni in the
waters" must be expiated if fire from lightning has been mixed with
sacrificial fire.75
Lightning, however, is not the only form in which Agni comes from
Sky to Earth. We are now about to see the purpose of Agnis tripartition,
which links the mystery of afterlife with the mystery of terrestrial fires
origin from celestial fire. We begin with the Vedic concept of human
reproduction, where the male plants the garbha- embryo in the uterus
of the female: thus when Sky impregnates Earth with rainwater, the
embryo is none other than the Agni in the waters, and this embryo is
then lodged within the plants that grow out of the impregnated Earth
(Rig-Veda 7.9.3, 8.43.9, 1.141.4, etc.).74 One of the designations of Agni
within plants is actually apam garbha- embryo of the waters' (7.9.3); one
of the designations of plant" is osadht-:
apsv agne sddhis tava
sattsadh tr dnu rudhyase
Rig-Veda 8.43.9

Your station is in waters, Agni;


you grow into osadh is.
75 Also in the Atharva-Vrda, there is an explicit distinction between the Agni- of the
waters and the Agni-s of lightning (3.21.1, 7; 8.1.11: 12.1.37).
74 Cf. Bcrgaigne 1878 1:17, Oldenberg 1917.113-114.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

103

Etymologically, osadhi- may be interpreted as being composed of roots


ui-and dh-, meaning light-emplacement.75
The one who brought fire from the Sky to the Earth is called
Mtarisvan, messenger of Vivasvat {Rig-Veda 6.8.2; also 1.93.6, 3.2.13,
1.143.2). Elsewhere, the messenger of Vivasvat is specified as Agni him
self (1.58.1, 8.39.3, 10.21.5), and the word mtarisvan- actually serves as
Agnis epithet (1.96.4, 3.5.9, 3.26.2). Though the myth of Mtarisvan is
based on the distinction between fire and a personification which pro
duces it, the analysis of the myth shows these two to be identical.76 It
remains to ask how Mtarisvan brought celestial fire to Earth: he pro
duced fire by friction, expressed with verb forms of the root manth- (as in
1.71.4, 1.141.3, 1.148.1, 3.9.5). In the language of the Rig-Veda, fire is
produced by the manth- friction of fire-sticks called the arni-s:77
dstiddm adhimdnthanam
dsti prajdnanam krtdm
elam vispdtnim a bhara
agntm manthdma pdrvdthd
ardnyor nihilo jdtdvedd
gdrbha iva sudhito garbhinisu

Rig-Veda 3.29.1-2
This is the friction-place,
birth-giving, it has been prepared;
bring the vispdtni [mistress of the household];
as before, let us rub fire.
Agni the Jtavedas has been emplaced in the two a rd n is,
well-placed like the embryo in pregnant females.

The fire latent in the wood of the arni-s is born as terrestrial fire, and
we note that the Agni-epithet Mtarisvan is etymologically appropriate to
the theme of latent fire: mtari- in the mother and -svan- swelling
(from root - swell). Here, then, is the key to the mystery of how the
terrestrial fire of sacrifice was produced from celestial fire. Agni des
cends from the Sky as an embryo in rainwater. Then he is lodged in the
plants that grow from the impregnation of Earth with rain. Finally, he is
75 For a survey of the etymological possibilities of osa-dht plant', including the one
chosen here, see Minard 1956.268. For more on this etymology, see p. 150n25.
76 Macdonell 1897.71.
77 On the etymology of ardni- as the 'nurturing, nourishment of the fire, see p. 156.

104

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

rubbed out of wood, thus becoming terrestrial fire. The link between
celestial and terrestrial fire is Agni Mtarisvan, messenger of Vivasvat
(6.8.2, etc.).
As for Vivasvat, he is the first to receive fire on earth by virtue of being
the first. to sacrifice on earth, and he is the ancestor of humans
{MaitryaniSamhit 1.6.12, TaitHriya-Samhitd 6.5.6.1-2, Satapatha-rdhmana 3.3.1.3-4).78 To say sddane vivdsvatah at the place of Vivasvat (RigVeda 1.53.1) is the same as saying at the sacrifice.79 Vivasvat, father of
Yama (10.14.5, 10.17.1) is formally and thematically cognate with the
Avestan figure Vivahvant, father of Yima, who was the first person ever to
prepare Haoma ( Yasna 9.3-4). The association of Vivahvant with
Haoma is important because Soma/Haoma constitutes the Indic/
Iranian sacrifice par excellence,80 and the Vedic Vivasvat also has special
associations with Soma (Rig-Veda 9.26.4, 9.10.5, etc.). In the context of
the breaking dawn, usds-, the word vivdsvat- also occurs as an epithet of
Agni, meaning shining:
am rah kavir aditir vivdsvdn
susamsn mitr dtithih a w nah
citrbhnur usdsdm bhdty dgre
apam gdrbhah prasvd a viveia
Rig-Veda 7.9.3

The unerring seer, the Aditi, the Vivasvat,


the Mitra of good company, our kind guest,
with majestic brightness he shines in front of the dawns,
the embryo of the waters has lodged in pregnant plants.

Such thematic connections (cf. also 1.44.1, 1.96.2, 3.30.13) serve as


confirmation of the etymology: the vas- of xnvdsvat- is derived from the
verb xtas-/us- shine, and so, too, is the us- of usds- dawn. Furthermore,
the vas- of vivdsvat- is cognate with the Latin ues- of Vesta, Roman god
dess of the domestic fireplace.81 As for the domestic aspect of Vivasvat, it
is best understood in relation to the Indie Triple Fire. Matching the tri
partite nature of Agni, there evolved certain Indie cult practices that
involve a triple sacrificial fire, as documented in minute detail by the
Brahman as. Whereas the single sacrificial fire is suitable for domestic
purposes, the triple sacrificial fire is a priestly institution associated with
78 Sec Dumezil 1954.34-35.
79 a . Dumezil p. 42n43.
a . Oldenberg 1917.281-283.
81 Dumezil 1954.33-34. a . pp. 146. below.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

105

the cult centers of the Indie peoples (cf. Satapatha-Brhmana 2.1.4.4).


Some sacrifices, such as the offerings at sunrise and sunset, can be
enacted with either a single or a triple fire, but others are restricted to
one or the other: for example, rites related to family life belong to the
single fire, whereas Soma-rites are restricted to a triple fire.82
Among the three fires of the Triple Fire, one is still specifically associ
ated with the domestic aspects: it is the Grhapatya, meaning fire of the
grhdpati-. The word grhdpati-, like vispdti-, means lord of the house
hold; both are common Rig-Vedic epithets of Agni. Significantly, if the
fire of the Grhapatya is extinguished, it must be rekindled with arni-s
(Satapatha-Brhmana 12.4.3.2). By contrast, if another of the three fires,
the Ahavaniya (from preverb - plus root hav- pour libation), is
extinguished, it is to be relit from the fire of the Grhapatya (SatapathaBrhmana 12.4.3.3). The specific association of the Grhapatya with the
arni-s (see also Satapatha-Brhmarui 2.1.4.5-9) is parallel to the associa
tion of Vivasvat with the arnis:
In the Mtarisvan myth, Agni is produced with

manth- friction.83

Mtarisvan is the messenger of Vivasvat.84


Vivasvat is the first to receive fire by virtue of being the first sacrificer on
earth.85
Agni is produced with the

m anth-

friction of fire-sticks called arant-s in

RigVeda 3.29.1-2.8687
We note that the fire apparatus in the latter passage, Rig-Veda 3.29.1-2,87
is called visptnt mistress of the household: here, too, the domestic
implication is pertinent to the function of the Grhapatya. Finally,
besides the arni-s, still another feature of the Grhapatya links it to the
Mtarisvan myth: it is the designation of its enclosure as the yoni- uterus'
(Satapatha-Brhmana 7.1.1.12) ,88
The connection between Indic Vivasvat/Mtarisvan /Grhapatya and
Italic Vesta extends beyond the general feature of the domestic fireplace.
Even in such specific details as the relighting of the Grhapatya with the
82 a . Oldcnbcrg 1917.347-348.
S e e p . 103.
84 See p. 103.
S e e p. 104.
86 Quoted at p. 103.
87 See again p. 103.
88 On the etymology of amni-, which reveals a semantic parallelism with yoni-, see pp.
1561F.

106

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

friction of wood, the cult of Vesta affords specific parallels. The fire in
the Roman sanctuary of Vesta was supposed to be kept going at all times
(cf. Cicero Philippics 11.10), and it was a grave matter if it ever went out:
ignis Vestae si quando interstinctus esset, u irpn es uerberibus adjiciebantur a
pontifice, quibus mos erat tabulam felicis materiae tam diu terebrare, quousque excep
tum ignem cribro aeneo uirgo in aedem ferret.

Paulus ex Festo 94 ed. Lindsay


Whenever the fire of Vesta was interrupted, the Virgins were beaten by the
pontifex, their custom was to bore a tabula of f ilix materia until a fire could
be taken and brought in a brazen cribrum to the sanctuary by a Virgin.89

We note that the wood used here is called materia, a noun apparendy
derived from mater m other, and that materia is qualified as filix, an
adjective appropriate to the theme of fertility. Immediately comparable
in theme are the name mtarisvan- swelling in the m other90 and the
name for the enclosure of the Grhapatya, yni- uterus.9192*

If the fire of the Grhapatya went out, it was likewise a grave matter:
the fire must not be relit by borrowing from the fire of the Ahavaniya,
nor by substituting the Ahavaniya for the Grhapatya; rather, fire must
be rubbed from the arni-% (Satapatha-Brhmana 12.4.3.3).92 This ritual
hierarchy reflects symbolically the Indo-European custom of borrowing
fire from the domestic fireplace of a fellow member of a community: we
may compare such expressions as Greek /, Lithuanian
ugnj imti, Latin ignem accipere, Italian fuoco prendere, all meaning take
fire; as Wilhelm Schulze has noticed, the contexts of these expressions
point back to the same ancestral custom.95 The point remains that the
Grhapatya, by virtue of being the domesticfire, is the central pointfrom which all
otherfires emanate94
Having observed the primacy of the Grhapatya, let us examine how
the distinction between the Grhapatya and the Ahavaniya symbolizes
the distinction between terrestrial and celestial fire. To repeat, whereas
terrestrial fire is obviously incompatible with its opposite element, water,
the nature of water-bom celestial fire is different in Indie myth:
89 The details of the tabula and the brazen cribrum will be taken up at pp. 168-169, where
this same passage will be reexamined at greater length.
90 Seep. 103.
91 See p. 105.
92 See Dumezil 1954.30.
95 Schulze 1966 [1918]. 189-210.
94 For further details: Dumezil 1961.252-257.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

107

the sun plunges into the waters of the west only to be reborn the next
day from the waters of the east;
celestial fire is hidden in raindrops that impregnate the earth; it
remains hidden in plants that grow out of the earth; then it is rubbed out
of wood as terrestrial fire.
The distinction in myth, as we shall now see, is ritually conveyed by the
interplay of the Grhapatya and the Ahavaniya.
The fireplace of the Grhapatya is set up in a circular enclosure, with
the space on the inside representing the earth and the space on the out
side representing the ocean around it (these ritual symbols are
definitively and explicitly recounted in Satapatha-Brhmana 7.1.1.8, 13);
the enclosure, set off with bricks, is circular because the shape of the
earth is circular (7.1.1.37). We note that the waters are symbolized as
being outside the enclosure that is to receive the terrestrial fire, the
Grhapatya.
By contrast, the fireplace of the Ahavaniya is set up in a quadrilateral
enclosure representing the dydus sky, with a lotus leaf placed inside the
enclosure for the specific purpose of representing the waters (again,
these symbols are definitively and explicitly recounted in SatapathaBrhmana 7.3.1.9). The enclosure of the Ahavaniya is quadrilateral
because the four directionsnorth, south, east, westcan be ascer
tained from the dynamics of the sky (the suns path, the stars positions);
orientation comes from the sky, not from earthwhich is therefore sym
bolized as circular, that is, without directional coordinates of its own.
We note that the waters are symbolized as being inside the enclosure
that is to receive the celestial fire, the Ahavaniya. Unlike terrestrial fire,
celestial fire is compatible with its opposite element, water: in macro
cosm, the sun dips into the waters of the west only to be reborn the next
day in the waters of the east.
While duly taking into account the distinctions between the cults of
the Indie peoples, attested at a nomadic stage, and the cults of the Italic
peoples, attested at a sedentary stage of development, Georges
Dumezil95 has noticed a remarkable parallelism between the Indie
Ahavaniya and the ordinary Roman templum, a quadrilateral precinct
drawn along the lines of the four cardinal points of the sky (cf. Vitruvius
4.5); also between the Indie Grhapatya and the aedes of Vesta, with its
foundations built in the shape of a circle (hence the designation aedes
instead of templum). Just as the Grhapatya represents the domestic
95 Dumezil 1954.27-43.

108

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

aspects of fire, so also the Roman Vesta is the goddess of the domestic
fireplace. Dumezil has also noticed further parallelisms. Just as the
Grhapatya is incompatible with water, so also the aedes of Vesta: in the
course of the rituals that take place within the aedes, no water may touch
the ground, not even if it is put down in a container. In line with this
prohibition is the essence of a water jar called the futtile, derived from
the adjective futtiUs (which is poured*); besides the radical variant fu-t-,
Latin also preserves fu-d- as in fiind pour). The use of this jar is expli
citly described as follows:
fu ttile uas quoddam est lato ore, fu n d o angusto, quo utebantur in sacris Vestae,
quia aqua ad sacra Vestae hausta in terra non ponitur, quod si fia t, piaculum est.
unde excogitatum uas est, quod non stare posset sed positum statim effunderetur.

Servius on Aeneid 11.339


The fu ttile is a container with a wide mouth and a narrow base which they
used in the rites of Vesta, since water drawn for the rites of Vesta is not put
down. And if it does happen, it is a matter for expiation. Hence the
invention of a vase which could not stand up and which, once it is put
down, would immediately spill.

The third aspect of the Indie Triple Fire has yet to be mentioned:
besides the Grhapatya situated toward the west and the Ahavan iya
toward the east, there is also the Daksina toward the south. Meaning
the right-hand one, the Daksina serves primarily to ward off the evil
spirits from the sacrifice (Satapatha-Brdhmana 4.6.6.1, 5.2.4.15-16).
Given the associations of the earth-bom Agni with the Grhapatya and of
the water-bom Agni with the Ahavaniya, it follows that the sky-bom Agni
of lightning should be associated with the Daksina.
While the Grhapatya symbolizes earth and the Ahavaniya symbolizes
the sky plus ocean, the Daksina symbolizes the antariksa- intermediate
space (as explicitly affirmed in the Satapatha-Brahmana 12.4.1.3). The
sky-born Agni is specifically described as protecting the sacrificial ordi
nances and spanning the antariksa-:
sd jayam nah parame vyomani
vratdny agnir vratapa araksata
vy dntdriksam am im ita sukratur
vaisvdnaro mahina nakam asprsat
Rig-Veda 6.8.2

Bom in the highest sky,


Agni the ordinance-guardian watches over the ordinances;

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

109

the Sukratu, he spans the intermediate space;


the Vaisvnara, he touches the sky-vault with his greatness.

The antdriksa- is the context for a fusion of Agni with Indra in the act of
smiting the demon Vrtra in a stylized thunderstorm:
anUmksam mdhy a paprur ojasd
Rig-Veda 10.65.2
they [the gods] filled the intermediate space with their eyas-.

The root of ojas- power (*h2eyg-) is cognate with that of vdjra- (*h2yeg-),
the name of Indras thunderbolt,96 which is conferred upon him by
Agni:
a bdhvor vdjram indrasya dheydm
Rig-Veda 10.52.5
I [Agni] will put the vdjra- in the arms of Indra.

In fact, the epithet vdjra-bdhu- he who holds the vdjra- in his arms is
applied to the fused figure of Indra-Agni (Rig-Veda 1.109.7) as well as to
Indra alone (1.32.15, etc.).97 To conclude: since the Daksina symbolizes
the antdriksa- intermediate space, it follows that it is proper to the skyborn Agni of lightning.
We are now in a position to summarize the symbolism of the Indie
Triple Fire:
1. Daksina: sky-bom Agni, lightning
2. Girhapatya: earth-born Agni, fire
3. Ahavaniya: water-bom Agni, sun

The three fires have been listed here to match the order of Agnis three
births, as revealed by Rig-Veda 10.45.1.98 This Rig-Vedic order of Agnis
three births is significant because it helps account for the interpretation
of the name Trita ptya as the watery Third one.99 It is also significant
96 On the vdjra-: pp. 192, 197.
97 On the Indo-Iranian pedigree of the theme conveyed by vdjra-bdhu-: Benveniste
1968.74.
98 See pp. 99-100.
" S e e Ron now 1927, esp. p. 178.

110

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

because it corresponds to the order in which the Deva-s,100 had set up


the Triple Fire:
1. Daksina
2. Garhapatya
3. Ahavaniya

By contrast, the antagonists of the Deva-s, the Asura-s,101 had set up the
Triple Fire in the following order:
3. Ahavaniya
2. Garhapatya
1. Daksina

The myth of these rival orders is recorded in the Taittiriya-Brahmana


(1.1.4.4-7), where it is added that the fortunes of the Asura-s or
'demons consequently went backward and they lost all, while the for
tunes of the Deva-s or gods went forward and they prospered. But the
Deva-s were not to have any progeny, in this respect, the Deva-s are then
contrasted with Manu, whose sacrifice brought him both prosperity and
progeny. Throughout the Brhmana-s, this Manu is the ideal sacrificer
and the ancestor of the human race. In Sylvain Levis description, Manu
is the hero of the sraddhd,102 given that this Vedic word designates the
sacrificers attitude toward his sacrifice. As ancestor of the human race,
Manu would naturally have the same order of fire placement as that
practiced by the Indie peoples; throughout the Rig-Veda, whenever a
sacrificer kindles fire, he does so manusvdt- like Manu (1.44.11, etc.).
Here is the order in which the Indic sacrificer sets up the Triple Fire:
2. Garhapatya
3. Ahavaniya
1. Daksina

The key to Manus success in progenywhere even the gods have


failedis that he started the order of fire placement with the
Garhapatya, where Agni is bom like a human: as the mtarisvan-, the one
swelling in the mother, Agni is bom of the Grhapatyas yoniuterus.103 From the Rig-Veda, we know that it was Mtarisvan who gave
100 On whom sec p. 94n53.
101 On whom see again p. 94n53.
102 Levi 1966 [1898].120. See also p. 70 above.
103 Cf. p. 105.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

111

Agni to Manu (1.128.2, 10.46.9), and that Agni abides among the off
spring of Manu (1.68.4).
Manu can be described as a specialized multiform of Vivasvat: both
figures are primordial sacrificers, both are ancestors of the human race,
both have special affinides with Mtarisvan and the Grhapatya. In fact,
Manu is in some versions the son of Vivasvat and thus bears the epithet
Vaivasvata (Satapatha-Brdhmana 13.4.3.3, etc.). Also son of Vivasvat is
Yama (Rig-Veda 10.14.5, etc.), who likewise bears the epithet Vaivasvata
(10.14.1, etc.). As the first person ever to experience death, Yama
Vaivasvata is ruler of the dead, while Manu Vaivasvata is ruler of the liv
ing sacrificers (Satapatha-Brdhmana 13.4.3.3-5).
The etymology of manu- is transparent: it is derived from the verb
man- to have in mind'. The meaning of Manu as the mindful one is
appropriate to the theme of Manu: as Sylvain Levi points out, his sheer
virtuosity in the delicate art of sacrifice confers upon him an incontest
able authority on matters of ritual.104 There is no sacrificial error for
which he does not know a remedy (Taittiriya-Samhitd 2.2.10.2, etc.). To
the degree that ritual was the informing principle of law in the social his
tory of the Indie peoples, Manus authority was further extended: he was
also regarded as a sort of lawgiver, and it is for this reason that the Indie
corpus of juridical and moral aphorisms is named after him.105
The semantics of Mdnu- go beyond the theme of being mindful at a
sacrifice. The broader implications are visible in another derivative from
the root man-, the noun manas-. As we shall see, mdnas- conveys both the
mental power of prayer at sacrifice and the cosmic power triggered by
such prayer. It also conveys, along with the noun dsu-, the aspect of man
that survives death.106Just as Mdnu- assures the perpetuity of the human
race by way of sacrificial fire, so also mdnas- assures the regeneration of
the individual humanagain by way of Agni as sacrificial fire.107
,M Levi 1966 [1898 J.121. Also p. 70 above. See Christensen 1916 for further documenta
tion of the ubiquitous mythological type dial equates the first man with the first sacrificer.
In this connection we may note that Mdnu-, the name of the primordial Indie man, is cognate with English man, In Germanic lore, as we hear from Tacitus (Germania 2), the first
man was Mannus, son of Tuisto; the etymology of the latter name reveals the meaning
'twin*, and we may compare the meaning of Yama%Manus brother: it is likewise twin*.
For documentation, see Gntert 1923.315-343; also Puhvel 1975. On the variation
between brother-brother and father-son dyads, see further Davidson 1987.
105 Cf. Lvi p. 121.
106 See p. 87.
107 Keeping in mind not only the connection between Indie mdnas and Mdnu- as 'man'
(see nl04) but also the cognate relationship of mdnas with Greek mmos (), we note
that the mmos eu ( ) of Patroklos at Iliad XXIV 6 is in collocation with his androies
'manhood* ( ).

112

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

How, then, is this regeneration concretely visualized with an abstract


noun like manasJ As we shall see, the concrete imagery associated with
manas- (and with dsu-) is vision and breath in microcosm, sun and wind
in macrocosm. The focus of this imagery is Agnis aspect as terrestrial
fire, which provides the dead with a direct link to Agnis aspect as celes
tial fire, namely, the sun. The sun-gods Savitr and Psan can be psycho
pomps only because Agni himself is a psychopomp, by virtue of cremat
ing the dead. Agni is the supreme model and guide of rebirth.
The cremating fire of Agni ultimately confers upon the dead a com
munion with the sun:
suryam aiksu r gacchatu vatam alm a
Rig-Veda

10.16.3

may the eye go to the sun and the breath to the wind108

Here we see the elements of vision and breath absorbed into the macro
cosm of sun and wind. Elsewhere too, the theme of wind is correlated
with that of the sun:
surya alm a jdgatas tasthusas ca
Rig-Veda

1.115.1

sun, the breath of everything moving and unmoving

Such correlations of wind with sun can be derived from the microcosm
of sacrificial fire: its air-suction and exhaust are simply transferred to the
macrocosm of the sun.109
Turning now to the associations of these concrete images with the
abstract noun mdnas-, let us examine the deployment of this word in
Vedic diction. As thought" or power of thought," mdnas- has speed
comparable with that of the Asvin-s horse team (Rig-Veda 1.181.2, 6.62.3,
4). These Asvin-s are the Nasatyan,110 sons of Dyaus Sky (1.183.1, etc.),
108 The following verses of this stanza present a variant theme that is beyond the scope of
this presentationone that I hope to examine in a projected study of the osadht- (on which
see p. 102).
109 In the Bmhmana, the sacrificial South Fire of the pilr-9 ancestors* is designated as
Viiyu, name of the wind-god ( Tailtiriya-Brdhmana 1.1.8.1-2, etc.), and Vayu frequently
forms a triad with Agni and Surya the sun-god ( Taitliriya-Samhil 3.1.6b, 3.2.4h, etc.). The
association of the South Fire with the pitr-e is natural because their abode is the highest
point in the sky (cf. p. 96), and this position in the Northern Hemisphere can be
represented as south in terms of east and west. Further details in Hillebrandt 1927
l:103nn2,3.
110 See pp. 92.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

113

consorts of the sun-goddess Sry (4.43.6) and fathers of Pusan


(10.85.14); their sunlike chariot (8.8.2) is set in motion by Savitr before
the dawn (1.34.10). They appear as the sacrificial fire is kindled and as
the sun rises (1.157.1, 7.72.4, etc.). The frequent Rig-Vedic theme that
their chariot is faster than mdnas- thought (1.117.2, etc.) implies a com
parison of mdnas- with wind. In the hymn to the Sacrificial Horse, the
victims thought is specifically likened with vaia-, the wind (1.163.11);
the epithet for vaia- here is dhrdjimat- rushing, which occurs elsewhere
only once:
ahir dh u n ir va ia iva dhrdjim dn
Rig-Veda

1.79.1

the raging serpent, like the rushing wind

The raging serpent here is none other than the fire-god Agni himself.
The Greek cognate of mdnas-, menos (), generally means not
thought or power of thought but power, by way of a basic meaning
having in mind, reminding common to both Indie mdnas- and Greek
menos. For instance, the goddess Athena reminded (hup-e-mne-sen)
Telemachus of his father, thereby giving him menos:

,

Odyssey i 320-322

In his thumos
she had put menos and daring; and she had reminded him of his father,
more than before.,n

Besides the contextual guarantee from the verb root *men-/*mn-eh2- in


hup-e-mne-sen () here, there is also a thematic guarantee for
the interpretation of menos as reminding": in order to put menos into
Telemachus, Athena has assumed the form of a hero called Mentis
( i 105fF.), a name that literally means the reminder.11112
111 We note that Telemachus gets the menos placed in his thms (Odyssey i 320); elsewhere
in Homeric diction, thms can function not only as the localization of menos but also as its
synonym (see pp. 87fT.).
112 N 1974a.266-269. See also p. 21 On22 below. On Greek and Hittite thematic parallels
from the same root. cf. Watkins 1985b.

114

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

The precise transmission of divine menos is by breathing, as the gods


blow it () into the hero (Iliad, X 482; XV 59-60, 262; XX 110; Odys
sey xxiv 520). Consequently, warriors eager for battle are literally snort
ing with menos* that is, {Iliad II 536, III 8, XI 508, XXIV
364; Odyssey xxii 203). The gods also breathe menos into horses:
v
Iliad

So saying he [Zeus] breathed good

menos into

XVII456

the horses.

Parallel to this good menos' blown by Zeus is the good mdnas-*


that Agni is implored to blow into the sacrificers:11*
bhadrdm no dpi vdtaya mdnah
Rig-Veda

10.20.1

blow us a good mdnasA

Besides heroes and horses, other entities, too, can have menos, such as
the sun (Iliad XXIII 190), fire (VI 182, XVII 565), moist winds (Odyssey
xix 440), and streams (Iliad XII 18). Like heroes, cosmic forces have to
be reminded of their power, and this is precisely what sacrificers have to
do. One Vedic word for this reminder is mdnas, as when the priests
(vipras) hitch up mdnas- and thoughts at the coming of the sun-god Savitr:
yuAjdte m dna utd yuAjate dhtyo
Rig-Veda 5.81.1

they hitch up mdnas- and they hitch up thoughts

The time of Savitfs coming is sunrise (Rig-Veda 5.81.2), and his function
as daily Vivifier (the actual meaning of saxdtf-)114 is duly recounted
(5.81.2-5). By hitching up mdnas-, the priests indirectly hitch up the
dhtyas thoughts, consciousness of mankind, insomuch as they have re
minded Savitr, whose daily function it is to rouse men by awakening them
at sunrise (4.53.3, 6.71.2, 7.45.1). Specifically, it is the consciousness of
men that Savitro rouses:
1,5 Cf. Schmitt 1967.115.
1,4 See p. 93.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

115

tat savitiir vdrenyam


bhdrgo devdsya dhtmahi
dhtyo yo nah pracoddydt
Rig-Veda

3.62.10

May we receive this choice light


of the Deva Savitr,
who will rouse our thoughts.

This stanza is the celebrated Svitri,115 with which Savitr is invoked at the
inception of ones Vedic study. Again, the word for thoughts" is dhtyas,
which was the correlate of manas- in Rig-Veda 5.81.1, quoted above.116
From such contextual evidence, it is possible to infer that not only Savitr
but also manas- is connected with awakening from sleep as well as resurrec
tion from death. In Greek usage, too, menos is an element that is lost dur
ing sleep:
, ,
et
Iliad II 386-387
There will not be a pause for rest [from battle] in between, not a bit,
unless the night comes and separates the menos from the men.

We come back, then, to our original starting point: that the Greek
word menos is synonymous with thumos and pskhe at the moment of
death in particular and of losing consciousness in general. Now we see
from the comparative evidence of the Indie cognate rnanas- that this
Greek word has a heritage of leaving open the possibility of reawakening
from death on the model of reawakening from sleep or a swoon. In
Indie traditions the context of this reawakening is the realm of the pitrs
ancestors. We also come back, then, to the collocation of the expres
sion menos exi with the name Patroklees whose glory is that of the ances
tors' in a context where the expression designates the aspect of Patroklos
that is separated from his body by death (Iliad XXIV 6).
The comparative evidence of the Indie cognate rnanas- can tell us still
more about Greek menos: we now see that there is an inherited affinity
between the menos of the sun (Iliad XXIII 190) or wind (Odyssey xix 440)
and the menos of a hero whose name conveys the glory of the ancestors.
115 Cf. also the name of the epic character discussed at p. 87n 14.
1,6 See p. 114.

116

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Through the intermediacy of the tire that cremates the body, vision and
breath can become one with sun and wind.117 It is therefore a vital fact
that the fire of cremation is itself called the m enos of fire in I lia d XXIII
238 and XXIV 792; moreover, in the first passage, the body that is being
cremated is that of Patroklos himself.118 By way of this intermediacy, we
can now see how a verb like psu kh , which designates the blowing of
winds at I lia d XX 440, has a noun-derivative p su k h e that can function as
the synonym of m enos at the moment of dying. Or again, we now see
how the Indo-European verb root *an- (*h2enhj-), as attested in Indie
d n iti blows, leads to noun-derivatives like both dnem os wind in Greek
and a n im u s spirit in Latin. Significantly, the word dn em oi (plural) in
Greek can also designate spirits of the ancestors (e.g. S u d a s.v.
tn to p d to res , etc.).119 Further, Latin fu m u s and Indie d h m d -, both meaning
smoke, are cognate with Greek th u m o z again, we can better understand
such semantic specializations when we envision the exhaust of sacrificial
fire as it transforms the breath of life into wind (and we have already wit
nessed this theme in an earlier passage).120
We are still left, however, with the problem of the epithet eti in the
Homeric expression menos eti ( ). Semantically, eti corresponds
to bhadrdm good in the Vedic expression bhadrdm . . . mdnas. For
mally, as we shall now see, eti corresponds to the noun dsu-, which is used
in combination with mdnas- to designate the conveyors of identity after
death. Before we can examine this formal connection, however, we shall
have to survey the concrete visualizations of dsu- at the moment of cre
mation and thereafter.
1,7 Seep. 112.
,,HIn this connection, let us recall that menos in Homeric diction applies not only to
heroes like Patroklos but also to horses (see p. 114). At Iliad XVII 456, moreover, Zeus
blows menos into horses that are immortal and that belong to Achilles himself. Further dis
cussion in N 1979a.209-210 50n2, where I argue that Xanthos the immortal horse of
Achilles is presented by the Iliad as a model of solar rebirth. Xanthos and the other horses
of Achilles are represented on the Munster Hydria (see p. 88n20), and it is argued by
Sthler ( 1967.44ff.) that these horses function there as symbols for the death of Patroklos.
In view of the semantic range inherited by the word menos, which extends to the sun itself
(Iliad XX1I1 190), I would add that these same horses also function as symbols for the after
life of Patroklos and of Achilles. (X Rig-Veda 2.35.6, as quoted at p. 101.
1,9 For documentation, see Rohde 1898 1:247-249, esp. pp. 248-249nl. In view of
Rohdes analysis of hero cult as a transformation of ancestor worship in the context of the
polis or city-state (see p. 93 above), we may compare the word tntopdtores ( e.g.
Photius S.V., Suda s.v.), as discussed by Rohde, with the linear B word ti-ri-se-ro-e = *tris
heroei (dative: Pylos tablets Fr 1204, Tn 316.5); cf. Homeric tris mdkar ( ), as dis
cussed by Sacconi 1960.171ff.
120 See p. 87.
121 See p. 114.

Pairoklos and the Indie Triple Fire

117

As we have already seen, the setting sun can be envisioned as taking


along the breath and vision cosmically absorbed from the cremated
dead.122 Significantly, a goat has been cremated together with the corpse
(Rig-Veda 10.16.4). With the goat as warrant of divine guidance, the
righteous dead must travel along the way of the ancestors, the pitr-s, who
have reached the dsu- and who have been avrkas unharmed by the wolf:
dsum yd iyiir avrka rtajnds
Rig-Veda 10.15.1

who have reached the

dsu-,

unharmed by the wolf, knowing righteousness

Not only the cremation of the goat but also the threat of the wolf point
to the psychopomp Pusan: it is he who fends off the wolf from the
travelers path (Rig-Veda 1.42.2). Another threat are Yamas hounds,
who are asutfpd isu-robbers (10.14.11). It is because of these hounds
that the following prayer must be recited:
lev asmdbhyam drsdye surydya
p u n a rd d td m dsum adyehd bhadrdm
Rig-Veda 10.14.12

may these two [hounds], so that wc may see the sun,


give us back, here today, our good dsu-

Thus good dsu-," with the same epithet bhadrd- good that we have
already seen applied elsewhere to manas-,125 is a key to the vision of sun
light.
With Agni/Savitr/Psan as psychopomp, the dead must travel along
the dsuni- path leading to dsu- (Rig-Veda 10.12.4, 10.15.14, 10.16.2);
elsewhere, dsuniti- is personified as a goddess, implored to give back to the
dead their vision of sunlight (10.59.5-6). As the dead near the end of their
trip from west to east, sleepers are ready to waken and Usas Dawn is
awaited:
lid ird kv a m jtv o dsur na agdd
dpa pragdt tdma a jyotir eti
draik pdnthdm yatave surydya

118

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

dganm a ydtra pratirdn ta ayuh


Rig-Veda

1.113.16

Arise! The living dsu- has come to us;


darkness has gone away, light draws near;
she [Usas] has made free the path for the sun to go;
we have arrived where they continue life.
At the same moment that sleepers awake, the dead are resurrected.
After the righteous dead have successfully traveled along the underworld
path, they rise with the sun on the pravat- stream, following the example
of Yama, to the abode of the pitrs ancestors, the highest point of the
sun (Rig-Veda 9.113.9), where they may stay in communion with it
(1.125.6, 10.107.2, 10.154.5).
A suitable psychopomp for the ascent (with Yama: 10.14.8) into the
abode of the pitr-% is the sun-god Savitr himself (10.17.4).124 Or Agni can
serve as a cosmic model, in the function of Apm Npt.125 There is even
a variant of apm npt that is specially applicable to Agni, namely,
pravto npt progeny of the pravt- stream (Atharva-Veda 1.13.2). We
may also compare this declaration in the Vedas:
p ra v t te agne jn im
Rig-Veda

10.142.2

The pravat- stream is your birthplace, Agni!


Since dsu- in the highest heaven is the ultimate goal of the righteous
dead, it is significant that every time Agni is lit again on the sacrificial
altar, he himself returns to his own dsu-:
devd yn m rtn yajthya krnvdn
sid a d dhot pratydn svm dsum ydn
Rig-Veda

When the Deva [Agni] helps mortals sacrifice,


abiding as Hotr, returning to his dsu-...
When flames die down, it is Agni who quickens them with dsu-:
124 Quoted at p. 97.
125 See pp. lOOff.

10.12.1

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

119

tasdmjaram pramuncann eti nanadad


asum paramjanayan jivdm dstrtam
Hig-Veda 1.140.8
taking away from them their oldness, he comes roaring,
producing a higher, living, unsurpassable dsu-

There is an Iranian cognate for the expression sum param higher dm-
here: it is Avestan parhu- higher existence* ( Yasna 46.19), describing
the place where the righteous dead abide. The translation of parhu- as
higher existence is warranted by the synonym paro.asti- higher
existence ( Yast 1.25).126 These Iranian formations *para-ahu- and
para-asti- both seem to be noun-derivatives of the verb *(hj)es-, namely,
*es-u- and *es-ti-, in terms of Indo-European morphology.127 If indeed
Iranian ahu- and Indie su- are cognates derived from *es-u-, then it is
possible to translate su- in a passage like Rig-Veda 1.140.8, quoted
immediately above, as existence.
That Indie su- and Iranian ahu- are truly cognates is suggested by
other evidence as well.128 For example, in the same passage that con
tained the collocation of para- and su- (Rig-Veda 1.140.8),129 correspond
ing to Avestan parhu- (Yasna 46.19), there is also the collocation of jivalive, living and su-,13013corresponding to the Avestan expression juii
anhus living ahu-' (Hadxt Nask 2.2). Moreover, there is the collocation
of verb jan- produce, beget and su- (again, Rig-Veda 1.140.8),181
corresponding to the Avestan expression affh?us in the begetting
of ahu- ( Yasna 43.5). I draw attention to the context of the last expres
sion, where the supreme god Ahura132 is being described as the primal
being in the begetting of essence [ahu-. The identical expression
atihius zQtoi in the begetting of ahu- occurs elsewhere (Yasna 48.6) in a
description of Ahura as he causes the plants to grow at the begetting of
primaeval essence (ahu-), and we may compare a stanza immediately
preceding the one where the collocation of pra- and su- occurs (RigVeda 1.140.8):133 here we tind a description of Agni as he causes the
plants to grow (1.140.7).
126 Schlcrath 1968.149.
127 Schlcrath p. 149. Cf. EWA 147.
128 Schlcrath pp. 147-148,152.
129 Quoted immediately above.
130 Quoted immediately above.
131 Quoted immediately above.
132 On whom see p. 94n53.
133 Quoted immediately above.

120

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

The Avestan ahu- essence of afterlife is ambivalent: for the good, it is


vahista- ahu- best essence (Yasna 9.19, etc.), while for the bad it is acistaahu- worst essence (Yasna 30.4, etc.). There is a semantic parallel in
the Vedic combination of dsu- and the epithet bhadrd- good (Rig-Veda
10.14.12).154*In the Indie evidence, the contexts of dsu- are one-sidedly
good. It happens, however, that the Avestan analogue to the Rig-Vedic
combination of dsu- plus root nt- lead (as in dsu-niti- path leading to
U-)135 is in an evil context: tdm . . . ahum . .. naesat may it lead to such
an [evil] ahu- (Yasna 31.20). As for the good essence, another term
for it is ahu- manahiia- essence of manah-, spiritual essence (Yasna
57.25, etc., as opposed to the negative ahu- astuuant- essence of bones,
Yasna 28.2, etc.). Not only is Avestan ahu- cognate with Vedic dsu- but
Avestan manah- is cognate with Vedic manas-, and it is these two Vedic
words, dsu- and mdnas-, that designate the elements of afterlife in the
Indie traditions.136 Furthermore, just as Vedic dsu- and mdnas- can func
tion as correlates (Atharva-Veda 18.2.24, etc.), so also Avestan ahu- and
manah-:157
0 5

a d ito dn gu u atam

yaOc anhat apm om <ujhus


a t a i u n e vahisO m mano
Yasna 30.4

as the ahu- will be finally.


It [the ahu-) of the unrighteous will be the worst [a d sta -],
but the righteous will have the best [vahista-] manah-

The Iranian comparative evidence, where we see not only noun


manah- coordinated with noun ahu- but also the adjective of noun
manah- subordinated to noun ahu- (ahu- manahiia-), helps account for
the Greek evidence, where the adjective () is subordinated to the
noun menos () in the expression menos ( , as in Iliad XX
80, XXIV 6).138 In brief, then, we find coordination and subordination
in Iranian (manah- plus ahu-, manahiia- plus ahu-), but only coordination
in Indie (mdnas- plus dsu-) and only subordination in Greek (menos ).
The directions of subordination, moreover, are reversed in Greek and
Iranian.
154 See p. 117.
*35 On which see p. 114.
136 See p. 87.
157 Schlerath 1968.153.
138 Sec pp. 93ff.

Patroklos and the Indie Triple Fire

121

Even if we may not be certain about the precise phonological prehis


tory of Greek - (-) in comparison with Indie dsu- and Iranian ahu-,
one thing seems certain: that all are derived from root *es- to be. The
semantic specialization of good in adjectival derivatives of *es- is com
monplace: we have only to cite the Greek adjective es-thlos ()
good as perhaps the most immediate example.139
In the case of menos ( ) in Iliad XXTV 6, where the expres
sion applies to the aspect of Patroklos that has been lost as a result of
death, I propose that we are witnessing an archaic context where the
meaning good for is only on the surface. Beneath the surface, we
find the echo of a Homeric heros afterlife.1
1wFor more on athlos (): Watkins 1972, 1982b.

CHAPTER 5

The Death of Sarpedon and the


Question of Homeric Uniqueness

It has been argued often, and in many ways, that the poetry of
Homer is unique, transcending his poedc heritage. The point of depar
ture for this presentation is a confrontation with one such argument,
concerning the meaning of the Homeric expression kleos dphthiton fame
. . . imperishable at Iliad IX 413, cognate with the Indie expression
srdvas .. . dksitam fame . . . imperishable at Rig-Veda 1.9.7. I stress, at
the very beginning, my own conclusion about these two expressions, fol
lowing a long series of previous works leading to the same conclusion:1
that Greek kleos dphthiton and Indie srdvas . . . dksitam are reflexes of a
common Indo-European poedc expression.l2 An ardde concerning these
two cognate expressions, however, stresses the differences between the
Greek and the Indie contexts, concluding that the Homeric vision of
imperishable fame is disdnet and therefore unique to Homer.3 In
lFor a thorough bibliographical dossier, sec Schmitt 1967.61-71.
*N 1974a, esp. pp. 140-149,244ff. On the metrical factors that may be involved in the
tmesis of srdvas and dksitam, see N 1979b.630n6.
sFloyd 1980. The germ of the present chapter is derived from the article N 1981a,
which was written in response to Floyds arguments. There is another article that goes
further than Floyd, Finkelberg 1986 (who cites Floyd 1980 but not N 1981a), claiming that
the Homeric expression kleos dphthiton at Iliad IX 413 is not even an inherited formula. For
a critique of Finkelberg, see [A. T.) Edwards 1988; also Watkins 1989. In response to
Finkelberg's argument that kleos dphthiton as used at Mad IX 413 is not a a self-contained
unit, I point to the discussion in N 1974a.l04-109, where the relationships that link the
phrase-types (as at IX 413), (as at VII 458), and
(as at Sappho F 44.4 V) are explored from the perspective of a less narrow under
standing of formula. I agree with Finkelberg that at IX 413 is
coefficient with owtot as at II 325. 1can also accept the possibility that
does not occur at IX 413 because is already present at the beginning
of the line. But I disagree with her inference that the presence of form

122

The Death of Sarpedon

123

reacting to this conclusion, I shall argue that, even if the Homeric


expression kleos dphthiton fame . . . imperishable has a distinctive mean
ing in comparison with the corresponding Indie expression, such distinc
tiveness can be explained nonetheless in terms of the actual traditions
inherited by Homeric poetry. In other words, the themes underlying the
Homeric expression kleos dphthiton, even if they have become semanti
cally specialized in the overall context of the Iliad, may still reflect an
Indo-European heritage. I shall also argue that these themes center on
the concept of immortalization, transcending concerns about material
wealth and security. Finally, I shall examine in detail, as further illustra
tion of these themes, the Homeric story about the death and funeral of
the Anatolian hero Sarpedon, as narrated in Iliad XVI.
Let us begin with the kleos fame that Achilles predicts will be
dphthiton imperishable for him, in the sense that the reputation of this
hero as conferred by epic poetry will survive him and last forever:4
ei ,
, ' ,
,
,
Iliad IX

412-416

If I stay here and fight in the siege of the city of the Trojans,
my homecoming [ n atos] is destroyed, but my fame [kleos] will be
imperishable [dphthiton].
But if I return home to the beloved land of my ancestors,
then my genuine fame [kleos] is destroyed, but I will have a lengthy
lifetime faion ].
and my end in death will not overtake me quickly.

By contrast, it seems at first glance that the srdvas fame for which the
priests are praying in stanza 7 of Hymn 1.9 of the Rig-Veda is to be dksitam
imperishable only in the sense that it should last for a lifetime. In this
instance, it has been claimed, the fame is contemporary, manifested in

instead of at IX 413 is an innovation: it could be an archaism that sur


vives precisely for the stylistic purpose of avoiding word duplication. As a general approach
to poetics, I suggest that allowance should always be made for the possibility that more
archaic forms can be activated in situations where the more innovative device is inappropri
ate. For an illuminating discussion of the usage of relatively older and newer forms in
poetics, see Meillet 1920.
4 See N 1974a.244-255.

124

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

secure material possessions, festive celebrations, long life.56The same


claim is made for the related Indie expression dksiti srdvas at Rig-Veda
1.40.4, 8.103.5, 9.66.7.
If, then, we are to defend the basic idea that Greek kleos dphthiton and
Indie srdvas. . . dksitam are reflexes of a common Indo-European poetic
expression, we must confront such claims of semantic differences
between them. Let us for the moment concede that these differences do
in fact exist. On the basis of such posited differences, it has been argued
that the Vedic pattern may actually be closer to the original meaning of
the formula.7 According to this argument, the emphasis on material
security in the context of Indie srnvas . . . aksitam follows an IndoEuropean model, whereas the context of Greek kleos dphthiton in the Iliad
supposedly represents something of a Homeric innovation, as we witness
Achilles deliberately rejecting the material security of a nostos homecom
ing (the word is used at IX 413) in favor of a transcendent fame, a
poetic tradition that will survive him and will sing his glory forever.
This view concerning the distinctness of kUos dphthiton in Iliad IX 413
is at odds with the one that is advanced in my monograph on Greek and
Indie meter, where I take the position that not only the Greek kleos
dphthiton but also the Indie srdvas . . . aksitam convey the transcendent
notion of a poetic tradition that will last forever, beyond todays material
wealth and security, and that this notion is in fact an inherited IndoEuropean poetic theme.8 The disagreement can best be summed up by
observing two different interpretations of visvayur, one of the three
epithetsbesides dksitamthat qualify srdvas fame at lines b and c of
Rig-Veda I.9.7.9 Whereas I translate visvayur as everlasting,10 it has been
suggested that the more appropriate rendering would be lasting our
lifetime.11 Two other epithets are cited in support of the second
interpretation: at line a of the same stanza, Rig-Veda 1.9.7 srdvas is also
5 Floyd 1980.135.
6 Floyd p. 135.
7 Floyd p. 139.
8 N 1974a.244-255. For an effective answer to those who question the antiquity of this
theme, sec Risch 1987, esp. p. 4, where he points out a crucial oversight on the part of most
experts who have expressed their views on the Greek epithet iphthilo- imperishable and its
Indie cognate aksita-. Cf. also Watkins 1989.
9 1 follow Schmitt 1967.19nl 14 and 73n446 in interpreting the form visvayur at Rig-Veda
1.9.7 as the neuter of visvdyus-, agreeing with srnvas fame, rather than visvayu-, supposedly
agreeing with indra. Granted, there are passages where visvayu- is indeed attested as agree
ing with indra- (e.g. Rig-Veda 6.34.5), but there are also clear attestations of neuter idivayus(Wackemagel and Debrunner 1930.291; concerning the tendency for -dyu to be displaced
by -dyus- in the second part of compounds, see Wackemagel and Debrunner 1954.479).
For a reading of viivdyur at RigVeda 1.9.7 as agreeing with indra, see Watkins 1989.
10 N 1974a. 110.
" Floyd 1980.136n6.

The Death of Sarpedon

125

qualified as xmjavat rich in booty and gpmad rich in catde*. It seems


pertinent that Achilles himself, speaking of booty in general and men
tioning catde in particular at IX 406-407, goes on to say that all the
booty that could be seized from Troy or Delphi is not worth as much as
his own life (IX 401-405, 406-409), but that he will nevertheless lose his
life in order to get something else that is indeed worth it, namely, kleos
dphthiton (IX 413). By contrast, the srdvas . . . dksitam of Rig-Veda 1.9.7 is
manifested precisely in the material security of booty in general and cat
de in particular.
This disagreement over interpreting the Indie word visvayurzs epithet
of srdvas fame could be resolved by considering the etymology of the
element -ayur, derived from ayu-/dyus-, a noun meaning lifetime on two
levels, the human and the cosmic. In an important article, Emile Benveniste establishes the formal relationship of this Indie noun, along with
its Greek cognate aion, also meaning lifetime, with such other words as
Greek aiei forever, always, Latin aetemus eternal, Avestan yauuaetdtetemity, and so on.12 It is not without interest that Greek aion lifetime
occurs at Iliad IX 415, in the context of contrasting, on the one hand,
the kleos that will oudast Achilles (Iliad IX 413) and, on the other, the
material security that would be his if he went home (IX 414; the theme
of material security here is made explicit at IX 400). The nostos
homecoming of Achilles (IX 413) is associated with material security as
expressed by aion (IX 415), and yet, to repeat, this same word aion is
related to another word aiei which actually means forever! Moreover,
the formulaic combination dphthiton aiei is attested in Homeric diction
(II 46, 186; XIV 238), and there is even an instance of the combinadon
kleos dphthiton aiei in an archaic piece of poetry inscribed in the seventh
century B.c. (: DGE no. 316).
It seems safe to conclude, then, that from the standpoint of the IndoEuropean language family the notion of material wealth and security is
not incompatible with the notion of eternity. To put it another way: the
transcendent notion of eternity is actually visualized in terms of the
material. Thus, for example, the word ain, which is to be realized for
Achilles in his possession of material wealth after a safe homecoming,
has a built-in temporal sense by virtue of designating the vital force that
keeps one alive and without which one would not be alive.13 The notion
of duration extends to age, generation, with an open-ended perspec
tive on the future: the cosmic vital force maintains an unending succes
sion of generations, as we see clearly from the semantics of the Latin*
** Benveniste 1937. Not cited by Floyd 1980.
13 Bcnveniste p. 109.

126

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

cognate aetas/ aeternus.14 The Greek adverb aiei corresponding to the


noun aion is forever in the original sense of a perpetual starting over
(e.g. Iliad 1 52).15 Such a perpetual starting over can be described as an
eternal return.16
Moreover, the theme of personal immortalization is conventionally
expressed in archaic Greek poetry by images of material wealth and secu
rity: witness the epithet olbioi blessed (from olbos wealth) as applied to
the immortalized heroes of the fourth generation of mankind (Hesiod
Works and Days 172).17 To cite another example: when the mortal Ino
becomes immortalized as the White Goddess after death, she gets a biotos
life that is dphthitos imperishable (Pindar Olympian 2.29).18 Similarly,
whenever ones aion is threatened by destrucdon, this threat can be
expressed by verbs with root phthi- perish (Odyssey v 160, xviii 204).
Further, just as -phthi-to- imperishable can express personal immortali
zation, it can combine with kleos fame to express the perpetuity of the
poedc tradition that glorifies the one who is immortalized. Thus, for
example, Ino not only gets a biotos life that is dphthitos imperishable:
she also gets a kleos fame that is, again, dphthiton (Hesiod F 70.7 MW).
By contrast, Achilles must give up his aion lifedme (IX 415), depen
dent on his nostos return, homecoming (IX 413), if he is to achieve a
kleos that is dphthiton (IX 413). And yet, the word aion, to repeat the con
clusions of Benveniste, conveys the theme of an eternal return."19 This
theme of returning into an afterlife is also pertinent to the word nostos
return, homecoming, as the work of Douglas Frame has shown.20 Here,
then, is the basic difference between the kleos dphthiton of Iliad IX 413
and the srdvas . .. dksitam of Rig-Veda 1.9.7: Homeric poetry has
separated not so much the theme of material wealth from the theme of
perpetuity but rather the theme of personal immortalization from the
theme of immortalization by way of poetry. Achilles is in effect saying
MBenveniste pp. 105, 109.
15 Benveniste pp. 105, 109.
16 Benveniste p. 100.
17 See N 1979a. 169-170 30n2. On heroes as portrayed in the Works and Days, cf. also
Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106. I interpret the at line 166 of the Works and Days as parallel
to at lines 122, 137, 141, 161, not to at line 162 (pace West 1978.192). The discus
sion of cyclical regeneration at N pp. 168-172 is in line with Benveniste's notion (p. 112)
that aion is visualized as the synthesis of the finite and the infinite in the form of a circle.
18 See N pp. 175 ln4, 203 41n2.
19 Benveniste 1937.110.
20 Frame 1978. See also pp. 92ff.; the discussion here of the relationship between
noos/ nostos and psukhe is pertinent to the expression 'that the pskhe
come back at Iliad IX 408. The observations of Frame pp. 145-152 about the links
between the themes of immortality and cattle in Indo-European poetic traditions are per
tinent to the discussion above of the epithet g6mad rich in cattle at Rig-Veda 1.9.7.

The Death of Sarpedon

127

that he chooses immortality as conferred by the Iliad over immortality as


conveyed by the material visualizations of aim and nostosP
The point remains, however, that the themes of material wealth and
security, as conveyed by the epithet d p h th ito - imperishable, are in fact
compatible with the themes of transcendent personal immortalization.212223
If the kleos dphthiton fame . . . imperishable of Achilles is to be con
sidered distinct, it is so only to the extent that this hero of the Iliad
places the importance of his being immortalized by epic even higher
than the importance of his own personal immortalization.
This is not to say, however, that the theme of personal immortaliza
tion is minimized by Homeric poetry. Given the specialized value system
of Achilles, we may note that the Iliad itself provides the backdrop of a
more generalized outlook where the theme of personal immortalization
is clearly not incompatible with the theme of immortalization by epic in
general and by the Iliad in particular. The case in point is the death and
funeral of the Lycian hero Sarpedon, as narrated in the Iliad
In considering this narrative about Sarpedon, I shall adduce three
general principles established in three distinct fields, each of which has a
direct bearing on the question of Homeric uniqueness. The fields are:
(1) archaeology, (2) comparative linguistics, and (3) the study of "oral
poetry. I propose to outline the three principles field by field, and then
to correlate them with the passage describing the death and funeral of
the hero Sarpedon, Iliad XVI 419-683.
First, we consider archaeology. We have already seen that the eighth
century B.C., the era in which the Iliad and Odyssey were reaching their
ultimate form, is as important for our understanding of Homeric poetry
as is the late second millennium B.C., the era that provides the overt
21 For more on the Uiadic theme of Achilles immortalization by way of epic, see N
1979a. 174-210. Note, too, that the hero Odysseus, unlike Achilles, achieves both a kleos
and a natos (N pp. 36-41). From this point of view at least, the epic about Odysseus may
indeed be considered to be closer to the Indo-European pattem. Moreover, in light of the
connotations of the epithet olbioi blessed* as discussed above, we may note in passing the
expression lo o t. .. | olbioi at Odyssey xi 136-137, mentioned in the context of Odysseus' ulti
mate homecoming: the setting of Odysseus future death implies rebirth into an Elysian
status, parallel to the status of the immortalized heroes on the Islands of the Blessed (as at
Hesiod Wtrriu and Days 172, cited above). For other aspects of the theme of rebirth in the
Odyssey, see Newton 1984.
23 In the course of arguing that kleos dphthiton is a Homeric innovation, Finkelberg
1986.5 asserts that the application of dphthito to an incorporeal entity" like kleos fame is a
semantic innovation"; at p. 4 she argues that, on the grounds that dphthito applies mostly
to material objects," the concrete associations of the term must have been the original
ones. I question such a weighing of statistical predominance in determining what is origi
nal." And I point out a salient feature, not noted by Finkelberg, in the contexts where
dphthito- applies to material objects: the concrete associations are otherworldly ones (cf.
N 1974a.244-255).

128

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

subject matter for both of these epics.23 What archaeology tells us is that
the Hellenic institution of hero cults is shaped in the eighth century B.C.,
the same era that shaped the Iliad and Odyssey.2324 As Erwin Rohde
emphasizes, the hero as a figure of cult must be local because it is a fun
damental principle in Greek religion that his supernatural power is
local.25 On the other hand, the hero as a figure of epic is pan-Hellenic
and consequendy cannot have an overtly religious dimension in the nar
rative.26 Such a restriction on the self-expression of Homeric poetry led
Rohde to misunderstand the elusive evidence of the Iliad and Odyssey on
heroes as cult figures. His belief was that the general Homeric silence
on the subject of hero cults implies an absence of even the ideological
background.27 And yet, even Rohde had to admit that a central scene
like the Funeral of Patroklos in Iliad XXIII preserves pervasive and
unmistakable signs of cult.28
In fact, a general argument can be made that Homeric poetry is per
meated with referencesdirect as well as obliqueto heroes in their
religious dimension as figures of cult29 For the moment, however, I
confine myself to citing the one central scene that Rohde himself
acknowledged as just such a reference. This scene, the Funeral of
Patroklos in Iliad XXIII, happens to be an ideal point of transition to the
second of the three principles to be considered in evaluating the narra
tive about the death and funeral of Sarpedon in Iliad XVI. This time the
field is comparative linguistics. As for the principle in question, the
briefest of summaries will suffice: as we have already seen, not only is the
Greek language cognate with other Indo-European languages such as Hittite and Indie, but also various Greek institutions are cognate with the
corresponding institutions of other peoples speaking other IndoEuropean languages.30 The case in point is one particular set of details
where the evidence about a Greek institution can be matched with
corresponding evidence attested in other societies with an IndoEuropean linguistic heritage. I refer to the Funeral of Patroklos in Iliad
XXIII, as compared with the royal funerary rituals that are recorded in
official Hittite documents.31 The convergences in detail between the
Iliadic scene and the standard Hittite ritual are so strikingly close as to
23 Sec pp. 9-10.
24 See pp. 10-11.
23 Rohde 1898 1:184-189.
26 Cf. N 1979a, esp. p. 342.
27 For a sensible critique, see Hack 1929.
28 Rohde 18981:14-22.
29 N 1979a. 69-117.
30 See p. 2.
31 As edited by Otten 1958.

The Death of Sarpedon

129

suggest a common Indo-European heritage.52 When we add the com


parative evidence of funerary rituals and ancestor worship in the Indie
traditions, the thesis of a common Indo-European heritage is further
reinforced.55
The relevance of the Hittite and the Indie comparative evidence to
the archaeologists perspective cannot be emphasized enough: for
instance, the evidence of cognate Hittite and Indie procedures in crema
tion makes obsolete the archaeological controversy over the cremation
of Patroklos. Since inhumation seems to have been the standard pro
cedure for the Hellenic people in the second millennium B.G, with cremation becoming common only in the first millennium, the cremation
of Patroklos and other heroes in Homeric poetry has been interpreted as
a phenomenon characteristic of the first millennium from the archaeo
logical point of view.54 The evidence of comparative linguistics, however,
suggests that the procedures of cremation as attested in Homeric poetry
are in fact so archaic as to reflect customs going back to a time even
before the entry into Greece, in the beginning of the second millen
nium, of the Indo-European language that ultimately became the Greek
language.55 To put it another way: the literary testimony of Homeric poe
try is in this case far more archaic than the archaeological testimony of
Mycenaean civilization.
This is not to say, however, that the evidence of comparative linguis
tics on matters of ritual simply bypasses the second millennium B.C. I
cite the Greek word therdpon, which is a borrowing, sometime in the
second millennium, from one of the Indo-European languages spoken at
that time in the area of Anatolia.56 The given language may have been
Hittite, Luvian, or some unattested near-relative, but in any case the evi
dence that we have for the word that was borrowed as therdpon comes pri
marily from Hittite: there the word appears as tarpan(al)- or tarpassa-,
corresponding to Greek therdpon and its by-form theraps respectively. In
Hittite the word means ritual substitute'. The entity requiring substitu
tion is as a rule the king himself, and tarpan(aUi)-/ tarpassa- designates his
alter ego (Uun autre soi-meme), a projection upon whom the impurities
of the king and of the community that he represents may be ritually
transferred.57 Here again the evidence is applicable to the death and32*67
32 See p. 85.
35 See p. 85.
34 E.g. Andronikos 1968.76.
33 As I stressed in ch.4,1 do not claim that cremation was the definitive Indo-European
funerary ritual. I argue only that cremation was clearly one of perhaps several different
types of Indo-European funerary ritual.
36 Van Brock 1959; cf. N 1979a.33.292-293; also p. 48 above.
37 Van Brock p. 119.

130

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

funeral of Patroklos: there is a Greek reflex of the Hittite semantics in


the Iliadic application of the title thrrdpon to Patroklos (Iliad XVI 244,
etc.), the hero who was killed while wearing the armor of Achilles and
who functions in the Iliad as the actual surrogate of Achilles.38
Mention of the Greek word therdp&n is pertinent to the focus of this
presentation in what follows, namely, the death and funeral of Sarpedon
in Iliad XVI. We shall have occasion to see the deployment of another
key word that is, again, of Anatolian origin, and again this word conveys
the ritual dimension of the hero in epic. Before we can examine the
word in question, however, the actual tradition of the Sarpedon story in
the Iliad has to be defended. Some influential Homerists have cast
doubt upon the authenticity of this tradition, arguing that the death of
Sarpedon in Iliad XVI is a derivative story modeled on the death of Mem
non as reflected in the Aithiopis?9 This point of view has been seconded
on an iconographical as well as literary basis by those who argue that the
theme of the dead Memnons removal by Eos is a basic and pervasive
tradition among the Hellenes, and that the parallel theme of the dead
Sarpedon's removal by Apollo seems by comparison marginal and flawed
by artistic inadequacies.40
Such a line of argumentation, however, misses one of the most basic
principles to be learned from the fieldwork of Milman Parry and Albert
Lord in the realm of woral poetry. This principle is also the third and
last of the three principles to be considered and then applied to the
Iliadic passage describing the death and funeral of Sarpedon. To put it
briefly: in oral poetry, a given theme may have more than one version or
variant, but such multiplicity of thematic variants does not mean that any
one of them is somehow basic while the others are derivative. In terms of
any operating system of oral poetics, each thematic variant is but a multi
form, and not one of any variants in a given isolated grouping may be
treated as a sort of f/rform.41 The same principle applies also to the
study of myths in general. In the case of the Sarpedon story, to prove
that it has artistic inadequacies that do not exist in the Memnon story is
not the same thing as proving that one was modeled on the other. Each
multiform can be expected to have its own inadequacies, and all we can
say is that some may have more inadequacies than others. But even this
value judgment may be a matter of cultural bias: it is possible that the
very criteria of adequacy and inadequacy' are in this and other instances58
58 Householder and Nag) 1972.774-776; cf. also Sinos 1980 and Lowenstam 1981.
w E.g. Schadewaldt 1965.155-202.
40 Clark and Coulsen 1978.
41 Cf. Lord 1960.100.

The Death of Sarpedon

131

too narrowly based on the vantage point of one particular multiform


that has for whatever reason become canonical.
The kind of reasoning that leads to the discounting of one variant as
an invention based on another variant is but a symptom of a more gen
eral oversight that commonly afflicts the study of Homer: in our struggle
to come to terms with the concept of oral poetry, we tend to forget
something more fundamental, that oral poetry is traditional poetry. An
oral poet does not make up stories: rather, he retells stories that his audi
ence has heard before and expects to hear again. As Albert Lord
observes, The picture that emerges is not really one of conflict between
preserver of tradition and creative artist; it is rather one of the preserva
tion of tradition by the constant re-creation of it. The ideal is a true
story well and truly retold.42
With these thoughts in mind, we are ready to consider the Greek
word of Anatolian origin that occurs in the Iliadic passage telling of the
death and funeral of Sarpedon, son of Zeus himself. After this prom
inent Lycian prince dies at the hands of Patroklos, the plan of Zeus is
that Apollo should remove his body by having the twins Hupnos Sleep
and Thanatos Death convey it to his homeland of Lycia {Mad XVI
454-455, 671- 673). At this point, the following sequence of events is to
happen:
te
*
Iliad XVI 456-457 = 674-675

and there his relatives and comrades will give him a funeral [verb larkhtio]
with a tomb and a stele, for that is the privilege of the dead.

The conventional translation, give a funeral to, for the verb tarkh is
inadequate, as we shall presently see. If indeed this story of Sarpedon
as also other Homeric storiesis a faithful retelling of a genuine tradi
tion, then its Lycian setting assumes added significance. As it happens,
the Lycian language is Indo-European in origin and closely related to
Hittite and Luvian. In Lycian, there is a word trqqas, which designates a
god described as one who smashes the wicked;43 this form is directly
related to Luvian Tarhunt-, which is the name of the storm-god who is
head of the Luvian pantheon.44 There is also a Hittite version, attested as
42 Lord p. 29.
45 l-aroche 1958.98-99; Heubeck 1959.32-35.
44 Laroche pp. 98-99; cf. Watkins 1974.107.

132

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Tarhu- in theophoric names; it is also attested as the adjective tarhu-,


meaning conquering, victorious.45 This whole family of noun
formations stems from the verb tarh- conquer, overcome, which can be
reconstructed as the Indo-European root *terh2-.46
To sum up the point of this brief etymological survey: all indicadons
are that the Greek verb tarkh u is a second-millennium borrowing from
an Anatolian language, and that the form borrowed was something like
tarh u - conquering, victorious'. This explanation of tarkh has been ten
tatively accepted in Pierre Chantraines authoritative D ictio n n a ire
etym ologique d e la la n g u e grecque.47

We are still left, however, with the problem of translating Greek


tarkhu. Since the form tarh u -, as we have seen, can designate a divinity
in the Anatolian languages, Chantraine follows Paul Kretschmers exam
ple in interpreting the Greek expression at I lia d XVI
456 = 674 as and there they will treat him like a god.48 We may compare
the Hittite expression designating the death of a king or queen in the
royal funerary ritual: DINGIRiJM-*s k isa t [he or she] becomes a god.49
The adverb there in the Greek expression
refers to the dem os district of Lycia {I lia d XVI 455, 673; cf. 683).50 I
draw attention to this word dem os in the context of the aforementioned
fact that cult is a localized phenomenon in archaic Greek religion. I also
draw attention to the following Homeric expression involving this same
word dem os:
...

Iliad V 78. X 33. XI58, XIII 218, XVI605


. . . and he got tim e [honor] in the demos, like a god

The verbs ti /ti m a * honor, and the corresponding noun tim e honor,
are crucial, since one of their uses in Greek is to designate the honor
that a god or hero gets in th e fo rm o f cu lt, this usage is not recognized as a
distinct category in the dictionary of Liddell and Scott, although it is
richly attested in the language of archaic poetry and prose.51 If indeed
45 laroche pp. 90-96.
46 Laroche p. 96. Also Watkins 1990.
47 DELG 1095.
D E L G 1095; Kretschmer 1940.103-104.
49 Otten 1958.119-120.
50 For the semantics of demos as 'district', see DELG 273-274; by extension, the word
comes to mean people of the district' (e.g. Odyssey \ii 11).
51 Prose: cf. the use of lime at Herodotus 1.118.2 (cult of god) and 1.168 (cult of hero);
cf. also the use of timd at 1.90.2, 2.50.3, 2.75.4, 5.67.45. Poetry: cf. the use of time in the
Homeric Hymn to Demeter 311-312, where the theme of the gods getting honors is corre
lated explicitly with the observance of their cults by mortals (also lines 353, 366-369); for

The Death of Sarpedon

133

cult is also implied in the Homeric formula presently under considera


tion, then we could immediately justify Chantraines interpretation of
at I lia d XVI 456 = 674 as and there they will treat him
like a god: in the dem os of Lycia, Sarpedon will get tim e honorjust as a
god would.52*
What still stands in the way, however, is that the Homeric formula
' and he got tim e [honor] in the dem os, like a god
applies in each attestation to a hero who is still alive, whereas Sarpedon
has already died. In fact, the procedure designated by the verb ta rk h u at
I lia d XVI 456-674 is equated at I lia d XVI 457 = 675 with the procedure
of providing the dead Sarpedon with a tomb and a stele, for that is the
privilege of the dead. We should keep in mind the archaeological evi
dence of the second millennium B.C. and thereafter, which suggests that
a tomb and a stele are indeed standard features that mark the burial of
the dead.55 The problem is, how to reconcile this perspective of the hero
as an apparent gure of cult with that of the hero as a figure of epic?
The solution to this problem, I suggest, lies in the actual contexts of
the formula announcing that a given hero got tim e [honor] in the
dem os, like a god ( I lia d V 78, X 33, XI 58, XIII 218, XVI 605). In each of
these contexts, the hero appears in the function of either priest or king:
V 77-78
X 32-33
XI 58-60

XIII 216-218
XVI604-605

Dolopion as priest of Skamandros


Agamemnon as king of all the Argives
Aeneas as grouped with the Antenoridai; at
II 819-823, he and the Antenoridai are
described as joint leaders of the Dardanians
Thoas as king of the Aetolians
Onetor as priest of Zeus Idaios

The sacral aspect of priests is in these cases overt, but not that of kings.
As we turn from Homeric to Hesiodic poetry, however, we find an overt
attestation showing that kingship is not only sacral but also intrinsic to
the hero as a cult figure who gets his due tim e .
The passage in question is the Hesiodic description of the Gold and
Silver Generations of mankind, W orks a n d D a ys 109-142. As Erwin
Rohde has shown, the essence of the Gold and Silver Generations is that
commentary, see Richardson 1974.260-261. For more evidence from poetry, see Rudhardt
1970.6-7. See also in general Rohde 1898 l:99nl.
52 See Kretschmer 1940.104 on the later literary and epigraphical evidence for the local
cult of Sarpedon and Glaukos as heroes in Lycia. In Lycian Xanthos, there is also epi
graphical evidence for a demos deme, district* named Sarpedonios (Kretschmer p. 104).
Andronikos 1968.114-121.

134

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

together they form a complete picture of the generic cult hero.54 A


review of the manifold details would go far beyond the scope of this
presentation,55 and I confine myself here to the themes of kingship and
tim e .

After the death of the Gold Generation is narrated ( W orks a n d D a ys


116, 121), they are described as possessing what is called the g e n u
b asileion 'honorific portion of kings ( 126). We have
already seen the word geras honorific portion, privilege in a context
where it designates the funerary honors accorded to the corpse of
Sarpedonhonors that included the procedure designated by the verb
tark/ .

'
*
Iliad

XVI 456-457 = 674-675

and there his relatives and comrades will give him a funeral [verb tarkhiio]
with a tomb and a stele, for that is the privilege of the dead.

It is worth noting in this connection that the Gold Generation died as if


overcome by sleep ( ... W orks a n d D a ys
116), whereas the corpse of Sarpedon was flown to Lycia by HUpnos
Sleep and T h d n a to s Death*, who are described as twins {I lia d XVI
672). Since the word geras honorific portion, privilege in Hesiodic dic
tion and elsewhere represents a specific manifestation of lim e (as in
Theogony 392-396),56 we can correlate what is said at Works and Days 126
about the Gold Generations royal geras with what is said later about the
Silver Generation: after the death of this next generation is narrated,
they are described as
,

Hesiod

Works and Days

142

second in rankbut nevertheless they too get tim e.

The irony here is that the Silver Generation, which represents the nega

54 Rohde 1898 1:91-110.


551 have attempted such a review in N 1979a. 151-173.
56 Benveniste 1969 2:43-50.

The Death of Sarpedon

135

tive and latent side of the cult hero, earned an untimely death from Zeus
for the following reason:


Works and Days 138-139
because they did not give time [plural] to
the blessed gods who control Olympus.
This theme, that a hero gets time even though he failed to give time to
the gods, is a key to understanding the religious ideology of god-hero
antagonism, but a proper treatment of this subject would again go far
beyond the scope of this presentation.57 It will suffice for now to observe
that the Silver Generation's failure to give time to the gods is in part
equated with their failure to make sacrifice to them:

,
* ,
[
Hesiod

Works and Days

134-137

for they could not keep wanton outrage [Atifots]


from each other, and they were unwilling either to be ministers to [verb
therape] the immortals58
or to sacrifice on the altars of the blessed ones.
which is the socially right thing for men, in accordance with their
local customs.
In other words, the factor of time is here expressed directly in terms of
ritual sacrifice.
Our survey of formulas involving the concepts of time and demos leads
to the following conclusion: the hero who gets time from the demos is
said to be like a god" because he is thereby being treated as a cult figure. In
Homeric poetry, of course, the generic hero is predominandy a figure of
57 See N 1979a. 118-150.
58 The use of therapedo be a thempm [minister] may have deeper significance. As Sinos
1980 has shown, the thempm in Homeric narrative is an inferior look-alike who can func
tion as the equal of his superior look-alike and thus be invulnerable so tong as he serves
him. O nce he leaves his superior look-alike and acts on his own, however, the thempon loses
his invulnerability and dies, thus fulfilling his function as ritual substitute: see p. 48 above.

136

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

epic, and his dimension as figure of cult has to be latentbasically


because he is still alive. Once he is dead, however, the perspective may
change, as in the case of Sarpedon: the verb tarkh , designating what his
relatives and comrades do to the dead hero, conveys the notion that he
is being treated like a godwhich is the epic way of saying that he is
being treated like a cult figure.
It does not follow, however, that we may dismiss as poetic fancy the
traditional notion that a hero is being treated like a god by virtue of get
ting tim e from the dem os . The institution of hero cult is visualized, from
the religious standpoint of the institution itself, as a form of im m o rta liza
tio n a fte r death. In the H om eric H ym n to D em eter \ for instance, the young
hero who is protege of the goddess loses his chance to be exempt from
death (verses 260-264) but is offered as compensation a tim e that is
d p h th ito s imperishable (verse 263).59 In the following three verses, the
ritual form of this tim e is then actually made explicit: the youths of
Eleusis will hold a festival of mock battles at a given season every year for
all time to come (265-267). In other word, the cult hero is being
awarded the permanent institution of a yearly ritual in his honor.60612It is
not without interest that the name of this young protege of Demeter
who becomes a cult hero is D em ophoon (e.g. 234), which apparently
means he who shines for the d em os'.ei
If we now contrast Demophon as hero of cult with Achilles himself as
a hero of epic, we can see more clearly the Homeric perspective on the
very nature of being a hero. Whereas Demophon gets as compensation
for his mortality a tim e that is d p h th ito s imperishable, Achilles says that
he will get as compensation for his own untimely death a kleos fame that
is d p h th ito n imperishable {I lia d IX 413). As we have already seen, this
word kleos designates the fame that a hero gets specifically by xvay o f poe
tr y 62 The ultimate hero of the I lia d is in effect saying that he will be
immortalized by his own epic tradition. We have here the essence of the
Homeric perspective: the theme of a heros immortalization has been
shifted from the realm of cult to the realm of epic itself. Accordingly,
Homeric poetry tends not to speak in a direct fashion about immortaliza
tion because Homeric poetry presents itself as the very process of immor
talization.
This is not to say, however, that Homeric poetry ignores the dimen
sion of cult: rather, it places itself above cult. The kleos that the hero
59 On the semantics of dphthito, see pp. 124IF.
60 Richardson 1974.245-248.
61 Fuller discussion in N 1979a.l81-182. In Greek vase inscriptions, the form
is actually attested: see Richardson pp. 236-237.
62 See p. 26.

The Death of Sarpedon

137

earns in Homeric poetry by way of valor in battle serves to validate and


even justify the time honor that he gets at home from his demos dis
trict. While he is still alive in the Iliad, Sarpedon himself says so:
, ' van
'
, me.
,
;

,

,
*
, .
Iliad

XII 310-321

Glaukos, why is it that you and I get the most honor fverb timdo, from
time\ of all,
with a special place to sit, with choice meats, and with full wine-cups,
in Lycia, and everyone looks at us as gods,
and we are allotted a great temmos [sector of land] at the banks of the
Xanthos,
fine land, orchard and wheat-bearing ploughland?
And so it is our duty to take our stand in the front ranks of the Lycians,
and to meet blazing battle head-on,
so that one of the heavily armored Lycians may say of us: Indeed it is not
without kleos that our kings
are lords of Lycia, who feed upon fat sheep
and drink choice sweet wine, since they have genuine strength
and since they fight in the front ranks of the Lycians.
On one level, the examples of time recounted by Sarpedon to Glaukos
can function as attributes of a living epic hero who happens to be a king;
on another level, however, each example can be matched with a
corresponding sacral honor accorded to a cult figure. As we know from
Greek religious practices attested in the historical era, cult heroes
receive libations,63 choice cuts of meat placed on a special table,64 and
0 Burkert 1985.194,205.
64
On the practice of trapaomata, see Gill 1974. Sarpedon s royal diet of mutton (Iliad
XII 319) may be correlated with archaeological discoveries at Eretria showing that sheep
are the usual victims sacrificed to heroes (see Hadzisteliou Price 1973.136).

138

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

the allotment of a tem enos in the sense of sacred precinct.65


From the standpoint of the Ilia d , then, Sarpedons goal is to get a kleos
that matches the tim e that he already has at home in Lycia. From the
standpoint of cult, however, this tim e would be possible only after he
dies, so that the epic perspective has the logical sequence reversed: by
placing epic above cult, Homeric poetry allows the hero, even before he
dies, to have the kind of tim e that befits a cult hero. What he soil has to
earn by dying is kleos itself.
Sarpedon then goes on to say that he and Glaukos should be
prepared to die in batde at Troy (I lia d XII 326-328), and that he would
choose to escape from batde only if escaping entailed immortality
(322-325). The implication seems to be that the welcoming of death
may succeed in bringing immortality where the avoidance of death has
failed: after all, both tiW and kleos, which are in store respectively for the
hero of cult and the hero of epic after death, are d p h th ito - imperishable
( ... H om eric H ym n to D em eter 263; I lia d IX
413).
The same sort of implication can be found in the words of Hera at
I lia d XVI 440-457, where she tells Zeus that he must not permit Sar
pedon to escape death in batde and thus send him back home to Lycia
alive (see especially line 445). Implicidy, Sarpedon would then have tim e
without having had to experience death. The exemption of Sarpedon
from death in batde, Hera says to Zeus, would be without precedent: in
her words, beware lest some other divinity may wish to send his or her
son back home, away from the battle (I lia d XVI 446-447). Instead,
Hera suggests, Zeus should let his own dear son die at the hands of
Patroklos, after which T h d n a to s Death and H u p n o s Sleep will take
Sarpedons body back home to the dem os district of Lycia (XVI
450-455). Immediately after these verses, we come upon the verse that
describes the ritual performed on Sarpedons corpse, as designated by
the verb ta rk h (XVI 456, repeated at 674). From the context of Heras
words, we now see that the action conveyed by this verb is presented as a
compensation for the death that Sarpedon must experience. From the
other contexts that concern the theme of compensation for mortality,
we also see that the verb tarkh entails the theme of immortalization
after deathin a way that is yet to be defined. That is to say, the verb
tarkh indicates not only that the relatives and comrades of Sarpedon
will treat him like a cult figure but also that he will thereby attain some
form of immortalization after death.66
65 On the temenos as a sacred precinct, see Burkert 1985.84-87; on the precincts of Pelops
and Pyrrhos, sec Burkert 1983.93-103 and 119-120, respectively.
66 This interpretation can be extended to the only other Homeric attestation of tarkhiio

The Death of Sarpedon

139

The explanation of tarkh o that I have just ofTered is corroborated by


the evidence of comparative linguistics. The Indo-European root
terhj-, which survives as Hittite tarh - conquer, overpower, overcome,
also survives as Indie ta r fi)- overcome, cross over, which takes the shape
-fur- in compounds (e.g. ap-tw r - crossing over the water). The latter for
mation corresponds to the -tar- of Greek n S t-ta r ; the substance that sus
tains the immortality of the Olympian gods; furthermore, the root nek- in
n ek -ta r is the same as in Latin nex death and Greek n e k - s/ nek-ros
corpse.6768Thus the word n ek-tar must once have meant something like
overcoming death; in fact, there is a kindred combination of concepts,
even words, in archaic sacral Indie poetry, where the verb ta r (i)- over
come is actually attested in a context where m rtytt- death is its direct
object (A th a rva -V ed a 4.35. ld-d).66
This evidence not only provides yet another argument for the heri
tage of an Indo-European poetic language.69 More immediately, it also
gives us a broader perspective on the semantics of Greek tarkh tio. To put
it another way: the meaning of Greek -far- in n ek-tar , where the root is
directly inherited from Indo-European, may help us comprehend the
meaning of Greek ta rk h iio , where the stem ta rk h u - is indirectly inherited
from Indo-European by way of a Greek borrowing from the Anatolian
language family.70 I draw special attention to the corresponding Anato
lian form ta rh u - as it appears in Hittite ta rh u - victorious and in Luvian
T a rh u n t-, the name of the storm-god who is head of the Luvian
pantheonand who wields the thunderbolt as his attribute.71 Perhaps
these formations convey the theme of overcoming not just evildoers or
other such immediate obstacles, but also the ultimate obstacle of death
itself.72
Let us look for a parallel in the figure of Zeus himself, head of the
Greek pantheon and wielder of the thunderbolt in his own right. With
besides Iliad XVI 456 = 674, namely, Iliad VII 85. The dead body in this case is that of the
hypothetical hero who is to answer Hektor's challenge to fight whoever is the best of the
Achaeans (see VII 50) in one-to-one combat (VII 67-91). Elsewhere, I argue that the
words of Hektor ironically apply to Achilles himself (N 1979a.26-41), and that Achilles
himself is destined for personal immortalization in alternative epic traditions that arc
implicitly recognized by the Iliad (N pp. 174-210 and 317-347).
7Thieme 1952. See also Schmitt 1967.186-192. The objections raised against this
etymology have been convincingly refuted by Schmitt 1974.
68 Schmitt 1967.190.
69 Schmitt pp. 190-191; cf. Householder and Nagy 1972.771-772.
70 DELG 1094 at least allows for the possibility that the Greek word Uirtkhos smoked Ash,
mummy is a related borrowing. In Herodotus 9.120 the word is applied to the corpse of
the hero Protesilaos, who in this context is believed to be endowed with supernatural
powers. See N 1987c.
71 On Tarhunt- and the thunderbolt, see Laroche 1958.95.
77 Cf. the contexts assembled by Laroche pp. 90-91.

140

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

his thunderbolt, Zeus can cause both the death and the immortalization
of heroes. We may take for example the poetic tradition that tells how
Semele became immortalized as a direct result of dying from the gods
thunderbolt (Pindar O lym pian 2.25, in conjunction with Hesiod Theogony
942).73 Then there is the case of Herakles, son of Zeus, who is struck by
the thunderbolt of his divine father and thereby elevated to Olympus as
an immortal (Diodorus Siculus 4.38.4-4.39.1).74 Finally, we may consider
yet another son of Zeus, none other than the Lycian king Sarpedon,
whose dead body undergoes a process designated by the verb tarkh u . I
submit that this process entails immortalization of the hero after death.
The fundamental difference, however, between the explicit immortal
ization of Herakles and the implicit immortalization of Sarpedon is that
the first is narrated as an event on the level of myth whereas the second
is narrated as an event on the level of ritual. Still, the myth and the
ritual are complementary' aspects of one ideology. The rituals of cult are
a code that can convey the same message as that conveyed by the code of
the myth. On a formal level, we can see most clearly the complementary
function of myth and ritual in expressing the theme of immortality by
considering the name E lu sio n Elysium*. We may turn to the renowned
passage in O dyssey iv 561-569 where this name designates a special place
of immortalization for heroes, and indeed the concept of Elysium has
become a permanent fixture of Western civilization. But we seldom hear
of what ancient commentators on Greek religion have to say about
elu sio n as a plain noun. In the Alexandrian lexicographical tradition
(Hesychius s.v. ), the word is glossed as
a place or field that has been struck by the thunderbolt, with
this added remark: 'and it is also called
e n elu sia . This definition is confirmed by the testimony of Polemon (F 5
Tresp), who explains that en el sio n is a place made sacred by virtue of
having been struck by a thunderbolt; also, the adjective en elu sio s is
attested in Aeschylus TGF 17 as an epithet of the hero Kapaneus, who
was struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus.75 We may compare the
semantic relationship of e n e lu s io s / en el sio n with that of h ie r o s / hieran
sacredVsacred place. Moreover, the body of the thunderstruck
Kapaneus is described as hiem - sacred in Euripides S u p p lia n ts 935.76
73 In the Pindaric narrative, Semele's abode of immortality is Olympus itself. See also
Diodorus Siculus 5.52, Charax FGH 103 F 14, and so on.
74 a . Rohde 1898 1:320-322.
75 Burkert 1961.
76 Cf. also the testimony of the Thurian gold leaves at A1.4, A2.5, A3.5 (Zuntz
1971.301-305), where the persona of the dead man is represented as declaring in each
instance that his immortalization was preceded by death from the thunderbolt.

The Death of Sarpedon

141

Besides Elusion, there is also another example of a form that serves to


designate both a place of immortalization on the level of myth and a cult
site on the level of ritual. In Hesiod Works and Days 171 we hear of a
place called Makr&n nesoi 'Islands of the Blessed, where heroes who
fought in the Theban and Trojan wars are immortalized after death (167
and following).77789*But there is also a tradition according to which the
name Makdron nesos Island of the Blessed was actually applied to the
old acropolis of Thebes, the Kadmeion; specifically, the name designated
the sacred precinct where Semele, the mother of Dionysus, had been
struck by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Parmenides in Suda and in Photius
s.v. ; Tzetzes on Lycophron 1194,1204).78
Let us return for one last viewing of the corpse of Sarpedon. It is
appropriate to notice that the Iliad contains other indications of his
impending immortalization besides the verb tarkh at XVI 456 = 674.
Each of these indications requires a discussion that would go beyond the
scope of this presentation, and I will content myself with merely listing
them as signposts for future elaboration:
Apollo bathes the body of the dead hero Sarpedon in a river (Iliad
XVI 669 and 679).79
Apollo anoints the body of Sarpedon with am brosie ambrosia (XVI
670 and 680)80 and clothes it in vestments that are dm brota immortaliz
ing (same lines) 81
The name Sarpedon applies not only to the hero but also to various
places associated with the mythological theme of abduction by winds or
by birdlike Harpies.8283This theme is expressed by way of various forms
containing the verb-root harp- snatch (as in hdrpuia Harpy and harpdz
snatch), which may be formally connected with the element sarp- of
Sarpedoni In this connection, I cite the following observation: It is not
too surprising that Homer makes Sarpedon the subject of the only big
77 On the association, at Hesiod Works and Days 172, of the word olbiot with the heroes
who inhabit the Islands of the Blessed, see N 1979a 170 30n2. Cf. also p. 126 above.
78 Burke rt 1961.212n2.
79 Cf. the theme of the 'baths of Okeanos" at Iliad XVIII 489 = Odyssey v 275, as discussed
in N 1979a.201-204. In the case of Iliad XVI 669 and 679 it is possible that these verses
referred originally to the local waters of the Lycian river Xanthos (cf. Iliad II 877, V 479, VI
172).
M Note that ambrosii is used in Homeric diction as a synonym of nektar, in other words,
ambrosia and nectar do not seem to be specialized always as food and drink respectively
(see Schmitt 1974.158).
81 On the use of dmbmto- and its derivatives to designate the notion of immortalizing' as
well as immortal, see Thieme 1952.
82 See Vermeule 1979.24236 and 248n36 on the Harpy Tomb* of Xanthos. On the
theme of death/im m ortalization in the form of abduction by winds, see N 1979a. 190-203.
83 On the morphology of -edon, see Risch 1974.61. More on Harpies at pp. 243ff. below.

142

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

snatch in the Iliad, though he transformed the carriers from lady birds to
Sleep and Death, to match more familiar configurations of epic mortal
ity.84
The snatching of Sarpedons body by Hpnos Sleep and Thdnatos
Death (XVI 454, 672, 682) can be correlated with the manner in which
the hero faints and dies. As in the case of other Homeric heroes, Sar
pedon loses his pskhe when he dies (XVI 453) as also earlier when he
falls into a swoon from a terrible wound (V 696). Nowhere in Homeric
poetry, however, is a hero ever described as regaining his pskhe when he
is revived from a swoon.85 This rigorous stricture in Homeric diction
implies that the reintegration of the pskhe with the body is understood
as immortalization, the overt expression of which is programmatically
avoided in the Iliad and Odyssey,86 Still, the manner in which Sarpedon
recovers from his swoon seems to be a latent expression of this heros
destiny of immortalization: Sarpedon is revived by a blast from Boreas
the North Wind (V 697). We note that it was to a rock named Sarpedon
that Boreas snatched Oreithuia away (scholia to Apollonius of Rhodes
1.211 = Pherecydes FGH 3 F 145).87
Coming now to the end of this inquiry into the death of Sarpedon, we
are left perhaps even more mystified than ever by this uncanny Anato
lian analogue of a Herakles. There are so many ramifications waiting to
be explored that this presentation amounts to a set of questions more
than answers. But this much at least is certain: Homeric epos is a reposi
tory of secrets about life and deathsecrets that it will never fully reveal.
In the case of Sarpedon, his Anatolian heritage allows a glimpse behind
the veil of Homeric restraintand the secrets are almost given away.
MVermeule 1979.169.
85See p. 90.
See pp. 90fT.
H7Cf. Vermeide 1979.242n36.

CHAPTER 6

The King and the Hearth:


Six Studies of Sacral Vocabulary
Relating to the Fireplace

In the E lectra of Sophocles, Clytemnestra dreams that Agamemnon


has come back from the dead to the realm of light (417-419;
419). The king seizes the skeptron scepter ( 420) that had
once been wielded by him, but which is now held by the usurper
Aegisthus (420-421), and he places it firmly into the royal hearth, the
hest ( I 419-420). From the hearth, there then grows out
of the scepter a shoot so vigorous that it covers with its shade all the
kingdom of Mycenae (421- 423).1The focus in the inquiry that follows is
this very symbol of the h estid hearth as the generatrix of the authority
that is kingship.
The general symbolism of the Greek noun h estid and of the goddess
Hestia, who is the personification of the hearth, has been studied by
Jean-Pierre Vernant as a model of Greek society in general and of the
family in particular.2*5Vemant draws our attention to the traditional
themes of Hestias virginity (H om eric H ym n [5] to A p h ro d ite 21-32) and
immobility (e.g. H om eric H ym n [29] to H e stia 3).9 He explains these
themes in terms of the exogamous and patrilocal ideology of Greek
society at large. Whereas in real life women are as a rule mobile, being
1In Ibad I 233-237, this same skeptron 'scepter' is viewed as a thing of nature that has
been transformed into a thing of culture; commentary in N 1979a. 179-180, 188-189. Here
in Sophocles Electra 421-423, the transformation is in the other direction. On the cult of
Agamemnons skeptron at Khaironeia, where its local name is the dom 'wood, shaft, see
Pausanias 9.40.11-12. Discussion by N 1974a.242-243nl6, with emphasis on the epithet
dphtkiton imperishable as applied to the skeptron at Iliad II 46.186.
*Vemant 1985, esp. pp. 165-169; cf. also G em et 1968.387.
5Vernant pp. 156-157.

143

144

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

shifted from hearth to hearth in the exogamous pattern of Greek mar


riages, myth presents an opposite image, that of the virginal and immo
bile goddess Hesda, who conveys the ideal, the myth, of an unbroken
male line, an ever-renewed cloning of the father, by way of the paternal
hearth.4 On the level of family, the very legitimacy of generation, of
reproduction, is warranted by the paternal hearth of the family.5
On the level of archaic Greek society in general, legitimacy is seen as a
prolongation of the paternal line. Legitimacy is a global symbol for
society, inasmuch as the body politic is embodied in kingship. The sym
bolism is at work in the vision taken from Clytemnestras dream, where
the legitimate king is seen as sprouting from the hearth. And we must
keep in mind that the Mycenaean Royal Hearth, as pictured in this
dream, is destined to become the Public Hearth of the polis.6 It is in fact
a distinguishing feature of the Classical city-state that the Public Hearth
is housed in the prutaneion presidential building:7 in Athens, for exam
ple, the arkhons authority is said to be derived from the Common
Hearth (Aristotle Politics 1322b), and he actually resides in the prutaneion
(Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 3.5) .8
This symbolism of the Greek hesti hearth as the generatrix of
authority is a matter of Indo-European heritage. Turning to the evi
dence of other Indo-European languages, specifically the hieratic diction
of such disparate organizations as the Atiedian Brethren of Umbrian Igu
vium and the Brahmans of the Indie Vedas, we shall find some striking
convergences with the Greek model. Since we are dealing with societies
that spoke cognate languages, I am encouraged to see in such conver
gences the actual traces of cognate religious attitudes, or even of cognate
institutions.
The form that is central to my six studies of sacral vocabulary relating
to the fireplace is the Indo-European root *h2es-. As a verb, *h2es- must
have meant something like set on fireor so we might infer from the
comparative evidence of various Indo-European languages that we are
4 Vemant pp. 165-165.
5 Concerning the ritual of the Amphidromia, where the naming of the newborn child
literally revolves around the hesti, see Vemant pp. 189-195: for the naming to be formal
ized, the father runs around the hearth carrying his new baby on the fifth day after birth
and then sets down the child in the sacred area thus circumscribed (scholia to Plato Theae
tetus 160e; Hesychius s.v. ; scholia to Aristophanes Lysistmta 758). On the
Eleusinian ritual concept of the ' boy from the hearth [hestia\' (Harpocration s.v. '. Anecdote Graeca 204.19 ed. Bekker), see the discussion in Vemant pp.
164-168 and the updating of sources in Burkert 1983.280n31.
6 Vemant p. 187.
7 Vemant pp. 181, 186.
8 Vemant p. 186.

The King and the Hearth

145

about to examine. Let us begin with the Hittites. Purely on phono


logical grounds, we may expect the root *h2es- to survive in the Hittite
language as h as-, and there is indeed an attested Hittite noun h a s sa
m e d in in g sacrificial fireplace.9 This noun, it is generally agreed, is
related in form to Latin axa sacrificial fireplace, altar.10
The problem is, there is also a Hittite verb h as- meaning not set on
fire but beget.11 Despite this semantic anomaly, I propose to relate this
Hittite verb h as- beget to the noun h a ssa - sacrificial fireplace. As I
hope to show in due course, the actual context for a semantic relation
ship between the concepts of beget and fireplace may be latent in
the heritage of myth and ritual.
There is a related problem, I suggest, in the semantics of the Hittite
noun h a ssu -, meaning king, which has been connected in some studies
with the verb h as- beget.12 In what follows, I shall be arguing that both
this noun and h a ssa - sacrificial fireplace are derived from the same Hit
tite verb h as- beget.13 Already at this point, we may note an analogous
semantic relationship, even if we fail to understand as of now the precise
application of the notion beget. The English noun k in g and the Ger
man cognate K n ig stem from a Germanic formation *kuningaz. This
noun is a derivative of *kun- (as in Gothic h u n t race, family), a root with
cognates in Latin g en s, g en u s, g ign , etc.14 We may note especially the
meaning of g ig n as beget (e.g. Ennius A n n a ls 24S). As I also hope to
show in due course, the actual context for a semantic relationship
between the concepts of beget and king may be latent in the heritage
of myth and ritual.

9 Cf.Bcnvcnisie 1962.14.
10 Benveniste p. 14.
11 For a survey of various etymologies that have been proposed for this Hittite verb, see
Tischler 1983.191-194.
12 See the survey in Tischler pp. 207-209, who lists other suggested etymologies as well.
13 The Hittite verb has- beget is spelled with a single s in the third person singular (haa-si) and with a double j in the third plural (ha-as-ia-an-zs). Such derivatives as hassatar
begetting, gens show double s (ha-ai-ia-tar), and so too the proposed derivative hassu- (haas-su). By contrast, consider the Luvian and Palaic adjective u/asu- good, with single s,
which seems to be derived from the verb wasi- be agreeable', attested in Hittite with dou
ble i Instead of waiu-, however, the Hittite word for good is aisu-, with double s. Even if
we are not prepared to explain them, it is important to note the existence of such s/ss vari
ations. I find a similar s/ss problem in the contrast of Latin ara and Umbrian asa, both
meaning sacrificial fireplace, altar*. Like Latin, Umbrian rhotacizes single intervocalic **,
so that we have to reconstruct an inherited Italic contrast of *did vs. *assa in order to
account for the respective Latin and Umbrian forms. Again, 1 merely note the existence of
this s/ss variation, rather than attempt an explanation.
14 Benveniste 1969 2:85.

146

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Greek Hestia, Latin Vesta, Indie Vivasvat


According to Georges Dumezil, the root *yes- of Greek h estia hearth*
() and Latin Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth, has a cognate in
the Indie form v i-v d s -v a t-}5 The mythical figure Vivasvat (v i-v d s-v a t-) , as
we have already seen, is the first person ever to receive fire on earth, by
virtue of being the first sacrificer on earth; he is ipso facto the ancestor
of the human race.1516 In Vedic diction, to say sd d a n e v iv d sv a ta h at the
place of the Vivasvat (R ig-V eda 1.53.1, etc.) is the same as saying at the
sacrifice*. Vivasvat, father of Yama (10.14.5, 10.17.1), is formally and
thematically cognate with a figure in the Zoroastrian A vesta , Vivahvant-,
father of Yima. Vivahvant was the first person ever to prepare Haoma
( Y asn a 9.3-4). The association of Iranian Vivahvant with Haoma is cru
cial because the Indie Vivasvat likewise has special associations with Soma
(R ig -V e d a 9.26.4, 9.10.5, etc.), and, further, because Soma/Haoma (from
Indo-Iranian *sauma) constitutes the Indo-Iranian sacrifice par excel
lence.17
The Indie form v iv d sv a t- is an adjective derived from the verb vas-,
with the attested meaning shine.1819The Vedic god of sacrificial fire,
Agni himself, is called the Vivasvat at the morning sacrifice, as Usas the
goddess of dawn appears (R ig-V eda 1.44.1, 7.9.3).19 Usas the Dawn is in
turn called the feminine equivalent, Vivasvati:
didrksanta usdsoyam ann aktor

vivdsvatyd mdhi citrdm dnikam


Rig-Veda

3.30.13

at the coming of Usas from the darkness,


they yearn to see the great shining visage of the Vivasvati

When the fire-god Agni begot the human race, his eye** was vivdsvat-.
imah praja ajanayan mdnnm
irivdsvatd cdksasd dyam ca apds ca
Rig-Veda

15 Dumezil 1954.34-35.
16 Sec p. 104.
17 See pp. 104ff.
18 Dumezil 1954.34.
19 Cf. p. 104, where Rig-Veda 7.9.3 is quoted.

1.96.2

The King and the Hearth

147

he [Agni] begot this progeny of men [and]


with his shining [ vivdsvat-] eye, the sky and the waters

In Vedic diction, the causative stem jandya- is used indifferently to


denote either beget or create. For another example of jandya- in the
sense of create, I cite the following verses, again concerning the firegod Agni:
tvdm bhuvand jan dyan n abh i krann
dpatydya jdtavedo dasasydn
Rig-Veda

7.5.7

your sound is heard, as you create the world,


OJtavedas [Agni], helpful for progeny

The macrocosmic principle inherent in Agni, god of sacrificial fire, is


anchored in a belief that the rising of the sun is dependent on the kin
dling of the sacrificial fire. The sacrificers pray as follows:
a te agna idhim ahi
dyum dntam devdjdram
yd d dha sya u p d n iy a st
sam td d id d ya ti dydvi
Rig-Veda 5.6.4

may we, Agni, kindle


your bright, ageless fire,
so that your wondrous brand
may shine in the sky

In fact, it is Agni whom the sacrificers implore to make the sun ascend
the sky (Rig-Veda 10.156.4). The Satapatha-Brdhmana puts it even more
bluntly (2.3.1.5): without the morning sacrificial fire, there would be no
sunrise. The macrocosmic cdksas- eye of Agni in the passage cited
above, Rig-Veda 1.96.2, is clearly the sun (cf. also 6.7.6). With the sun,
Agni ajanayat created or begot the world and mankind. To repeat,
the epithet of this solar symbol cdksas- is vivdsvat-, derived from the verb
vas- shine.
By now we have seen three important contexts for the adjective
vivdsvat- in Vedic poetry:
1. epithet of Agni, god of sacrificial fire
2. epithet of Agnis eye, the sun, when he begot mankind

148

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

3. name of the first sacrificer on earth, ancestor of mankind

From these Vedic contexts of vivsvat-, then, it appears that the usage of
the Indie verb vas- was appropriate to three parallel themes: the shining
of the sun, the kindling of the sacrificial fire, and the begetting of pro
geny. Furthermore, as we have also seen, vas- implied creation as well as
procreation.
To repeat, Dumezil argues that the root of this Indie verb vas- is cog
nate with the root *yes- of Greek hesti hearth () and of Latin
Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth.20 Going beyond Dumezils position,
we may consider the possibility that this root *yes- could be reconstructed
further as *h2yes-, despite the absence of any phonological trace of wordinitial *h2 before *y in Greek yesti, whence hesti hearth ().21
This reconstruction is not essential to the main points still to be raised.
Still, if it turns out to be valid, then the root *h2yes- of the Greek noun
hesti hearth may possibly be interpreted as a variant of the root *h2esas in the Hittite noun hassa- hearth and, I would add, in the Hittite
verb has- beget. Such a root-variation *h2es- vs. *h2yes- would be in line
with an Indo-European pattern attested in a series of possible examples
20 Dumezil 1954.34-35. In Ionic and other Greek dialects as well, there is a variant of
Attic hesti (). namely histi (Ionic ): see DELG 379. I draw attention to the rais
ing of *e to *i after the labial *y in histi, to be reconstructed as yisti. Such replacement
of *e by *i in the vicinity of labials is a feature of the "standard Mycenaean dialect: see
Householder and Nagy 1972.784-785. In other words, there is a possibility that the variant
form histi is a reflex of the "standard Mycenaean dialect of the second millennium B.C.
For a working definition of "standard Mycenaean, see Risch 1966 (updating in Risch
1979). For an altemadve explanation of the *i in histi, see Vemant 1985.199-200.
21 The absence of *h, before *y in a hypothetical Greek formation yesti may conceiv
ably be explained on the basis of a combination of morphological and phonological fac
tors. First, the morphology: the suffix-formation o f yesti, as DELG 379 points out, sug
gests that this noun is derived from an adjective yesto-, or possibly from yest-. Forma
tions like yesto- are typical of what we find in the second half of compounds. Which
brings us to the second consideration, that of phonology. It appears that laryngeals ( h,.
*hj, *hj) can disappear without trace in the second half of compounds (see Beekes
1969.242-243 for a list of examples; cf. Mayrhofer 1986.125, 129, 140). If, then, we accept
the argument in DELG that the Greek noun yestii may be a derivative of compoundformations, then we may expect phonological instability in the retention of laryngeal
reflexes. Even more important, there is another factor leading to a pattern of phonologi
cal instability in Greek yesti: in many inscriptions featuring dialects that normally retain
initial y, the expected digamma (= *y) of yesti is not spelled out (DELG 379). What
seems to be at work here is the force of analogy: we may posit a pairing, in Greek usage, of
hesti () with another word designating fireplace, eskhr (); it is clear that
eskhr never had an initial y, as DELG 379 makes clear. Besides the semantic conver
gences between these two words for fireplace', hesti and eskhr, we should note, already
at this point, an important divergence that is pertinent to the semantics of other words for
'fireplace* to be studied later on in this presentation: unlike the hesti, the eskhr is poten
tially movable: see Risch 1981 [1976J.537 (also DELG 379-380).

The King and the Hearth

149

shaped CeC(C)- vs. CyeC(C)-.22 To repeat: given that Indie vas- shine*
conveys simultaneously the themes of the shining sun, the kindling of
sacrificial fire, and the begetting of progeny, the reconstruction *h2yesof this root, entertained here simply as a remote possibility, would make
it a formal variant of *h2es-, as in Hittite has- beget and hassasacrificial fireplace.25
The Indie verb vas- shine, which I have tentatively reconstructed as
*h2yes-, has a noun-derivative usds- dawn, which in turn can be recon
structed as *h2us-os-. There is an e-grade variant, h2eus-os-, attested in
Latin aurora dawn and in Greek ados/ eos (Aeolic / Ionic )
'dawn'.24 According to this scheme, there is a possibility that both Latin
and Greek have words for the macrocosm of dawn* built from the root
*h2eys- and for the microcosm of sacrificial fireplace built from the
same root, but with a different configuradon: *h2yes- as in Greek hesti
() and Ladn Vesta.25
33 Where C = consonant. For the formulation of this Indo-European pattern of rootvariation, see Kurylowic/ 1927 (pace Benveniste 1969 1:22-25). Some suggested examples
of CeC(C)- vs. CyeC(C)-: *h,esu- vs. *h|ycsu-, as in Greek et>- good, Hittite assu- good*,
vs. Indie vdsu- good, Iranian (Avestan) vohu- good, Luvian and Palaic wasu- 'good'; *teksvs. *tyeks-, as in Indie taks- fashion vs. Indie tvaks- fashion, Iranian (Avestan) Quuaxsfashion*; *h,erv vs. *h,yers, as in Indie on- flow, Hittite art- flow vs. Indie van- rain*,
Greek / dew, Hittite warsa- dew.
39 Moreover, the reconstruction *hzyes- may possibly fit the Hittite verb Atm- live' (if,
however, Luvian hud- is a cognate, on which see Tischler 1983.264-266. then this connec
tion is to be rejected). If Hittite Auii- is conceivably cognate with Indie vas- shine, the
meaning live* rather than shine* would be in line with the semantics of Hittite Aas-, mean
ing 'beget* rather than set on fire, despite the meaning of hassa- sacrificial fireplace'. We
may note that the suffix of the Hittite adjective huiswant- alive is cognate with that of the
Indie adjective vivasvat-. The root *h2yes-, this hypothetical reconstruction from Greek
hesti hearth (and conceivably from Hittite Auii- live), is not to be confused with the
h^yes- of the Greek aorist desa (aeoo) 'spend the night*, which is a variant of *hjcys- as in
the Greek present () sleep. The distinctness of the roots is reflected in Indie,
where vas- spend the night (present third singular vdsati) is conjugated differently from
vas- shine (present third singular ucchdti).
34 Alternatively, we may conceivably reconstruct Greek alias/ eos as *h,us-ov instead of
hjCys-os- (cf. Peters 1980.31-32). In any case, the spelling of Aeolic reflects an
underlying *ayys; the gemination of *y reflects the Aeolic device for poetic lengthening
of initial syllables with shape *Vy- (where V * vowel), on which subject one of the most
informative works remains Solmsen 1901. By contrast, the Attic-Ionic device for poetic
lengthening of initial syllables with shape *Vy- is not gemination of the *y but lengthening
of the *V-: *hays to *hiuos to in Ionic (Homeric), in Attic. For a summary of the
diachronic motivations for poetic lengthening of the initial syllable, see Kurylowicz
1956.264-269; also Householder and Nagy 1972.754. Alternatively, *ayys and *ys may
perhaps be direct phonological reflexes of *ausos.
35Just as the posited root-variant *htyes- may have survived in Greek as hesti hearth*
(), without a phonological trace of *h, (see n21), so also the root-variant *hjeysapparentiy survives as Actio (two) singe, again without a trace of *h,. Cognates of Greek
Actio are Latin tiro b u m and Indie osati bum*. In this case, the loss of *h, in the Greek
reflex of the posited root *hjcys- may be attributed to the secondary nature of e-grade

150

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

The semantic connection between the macrocosm of dawn and the


microcosm of the sacrificial fireplace is explicit in the Rig-Veda, where
the coming of dawn is treated as an event parallel to the simultaneous
kindling of the sacrificial fire (1.124.1, 11; 5.75.9; 5.76.1; 5.79.8; 7.41.6;
etc.). The link or - messenger between dawn and the sacrificial
fireplace is the fire-god Agni:
tvam id asya usdso vyustisu
krnvdna ayajanta manusah

Rig-Veda

10.122.7

at the lighting-up of this dawn [usds-],


men [= descendants of Manu"]*26 have sacrificed, making you [Agni] the
messenger [-\

In the stanza immediately following (Rig-Veda 10.122.8), the Vasistha-s


(the Best) are described as archetypal sacrifice who summoned Agni
to the sacrifice. These same priestly Vasistha-s are also the fist to waken
Usas Dawn with their songs of praise (7.80.1). Elsewhere in the RigVeda, it is Usas who awakens men for the morning sacrifice (e.g.
1.113.8-12), as opposed to the converse theme where the sacrifices

awaken Usas:
yvayd dvesasam tra
cikitvit snrtvari
o
prdti stdm air abhutsm ahi
Rig-Veda

4.52.4

by songs of praise, with awareness,


we awakened you [Usas]
who ward off the foe, O Snrtvari!27

formations of the type heiio/ r/ osatt, apparently built on the zero-grade of the root (on
such a pattern of derivation, see Kurylowicz 1968.221). Parallel to secondary verbformations of the type osati b u m , Indie preserves secondary adjective- and nounformations of the type --, as in dur-osa- hard to kindle' and osa-dhi 'piant*. I interpret
the latter form as a compound consisting of the roots us- (from *h2us-) 'light' and dha(froin *dheh,-) put, place, meaning something like light-emplacement; see p. 103. For
thematic evidence in support of this etymology, see pp. 1021. For a survey of the etymolog
ical possibilities of osa-dhi plant, including the one suggested here, see again Minard
1956.268. We may compare the semantics of the English idiom set on fire.
26 More on Manu at pp. I KMT.
27 T he root njt- dance in the epithet of Usas, snrtvari, may be compared with the
collocation of khoroi dances' and E6s Dawn, as at Odyssey xii 4. For more on the goddess
Eos Dawn and her relation to the dance, see Boedeker 1974.58-63, 87-88.

The King and the Hearth


Radical *h2es- and Latin

151

d ra

Hittite h a ssa - is comparable in both form and meaning to Italic


*s/*ass 'sacrificial fireplace, altar, as in Latin era, Umbrian a sa ,
Oscan a a s a t (locative).28 The length of the radical vowel, guaranteed by
Latin d r a and Oscan aasat, may be a secondary Italic development29 If
the original Italic root is *s-, we may then reconstruct *s(s)-- from
h^s^-ohjj*, vs. *h2os(s)-o-, as in Hittite h a ssa -.
Also apparently related to Latin d ra and Hittite h a ssa - is a series of
Germanic derivatives nouns with root *as-/*az- (from *h2es-). The fol
lowing list shows some of the most plausible examples:
Old Norse a rin n 'sacrificial fireplace, from *az-ina- (cf. also the Finnish
borrowing a n n a hearthstone);
German E sse smiths fireplace = forge, from *as-jn; likewise Old High
German essa, Old Norse esja (cf. also the Finnish borrowing ah jo
fireplace);
English a sh (es), from *as-kn; likewise Old English
Old High German asca.

aesce.

Old Norse

aska,

For the meaning of English ashes, we may compare the Indie cognate,
a sa - ashes.30 This masculine noun can be reconstructed as *h2os-o-,5
8
58 Cf. p. 145n 13 above.
29 As we may possibly infer from such contrasts as in Latin dato vs. err.
30 For an especially interesting attestation, let us consider the context of asa- ashes* at
Satapatha-Brahmana 4.5.1.9, where asa- is being described as a creative substance. The asais what becomes of the angora* coals mentioned in Satapatha-Bmhmana 4.5.1.8, where the
arigera* are in turn described as the creative substance from which the priests known as the
tigims-es originate (cf. EWA 48). Cf. also Aitareya-Bmhmana 3.34, and Satapaiha-Bmhmana
1.7.4.4,2.3.2.1.3,12.4.1.4. We may compare the forms and meanings of Indie angora- coal
and Anginas-, the name for the fire-priests, with the forms and meanings of Greek dnthrax
coal and dnthropas hum an, which I interpret etymologically as he who has the looks of
embers. In a future study I hope to connect this proposed etymology with the context of
thmlpi piece of burning wood, charcoal in Aristophanes Aehamians 321, which may be
a veiled reference to a local anthropogonic tradition; see especially dnthrakes charcoal, as
associated with the Acharnians, at lines 34, 332. On the anthropogonic theme of First Man
as First Sacrificer, see pp. 70,110-111. (On the possibility of a related theme, that of First
Man as First Mantis Seer, see p. 198nl20.) I draw attention to two of the mock-names of
members o f the chorus of Aehamians: Marilddes son of embers' (Acharnians line 609),
derived from marile embers of charcoal (as at line 350: see p. 198nl20), and PrinitUs son
of holm oak' (line 612), parallel to the general description of the Aehamians as pnninoi
made of holm oak' (line 180: on the connections o f anthropogony with the material of
wood, see p. 198nl20). The latter description of the Aehamians is coupled with stiptoi
tough (line 180), in the sense of compressed by treading down, like the charcoal used
by smiths (Theophrastus On fire 37; cf. Sommerstein 1980.176); moreover, the dnthrakes

152

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

which also fits Hittite hassa- sacrificial fireplace.*1 For a parallel to the
semantic contrast of hassa- sacrificial fireplace vs. sa- ashes, we may
compare Lithuanian/Latvian pelenas/pelns domestic fireplace, hearth
(singular) vs. pelenai/ pelni ashes (plural).
Another possible reflex of the root *as- (from *h2es-) occurs in Greek
ds-bolos/ as-bole, traditionally translated as soot.*2 A clear example is the
following passage, where a woman is being blamed for laziness about her
household tasks:

Semonides F 7.61-62 W
Nor would she sit by the oven, [thus] avoiding the

asbole.

The preceding survey of noun-derivadves of root *h es- points to the


basic form of a verb. The intransidve sense of this verb, I suggest, is be
on fire, as we may infer from the following correspondences in the
Indie evidence:
2

Kama- desire*
saka- power
etc.
asa- ashes

from
from

kam- be desirous
sak- be powerful

from

as- be on fire (?)

We may consider the following semantic parallel in Lithuanian and


Latvian:
pelenai ashes
pelni ashes

from

*pel- be on fire**

There is another possible attestation of root *h2es- as verb in Latin*312


'charcoals* arc described as prtninoi made of holm oak* ( 668). Thus
the tough stuff" that men are made of is also the stuff of charcoals (on the wood used for
charcoal by the Achamians, see also Sommerstein p. 171). A pervasive theme of the Acharnians of Aristophanes is the ridiculing of the Achamians feelings of solidarity and even
affection toward the anthrakes charcoals (325-341), which they treat as animate beings, as
their deinotai fellow district-members (349; cf. 333).
31 The lengthening of the radical vowel in asa- is secondary: see Kurylowicz 1968.282-283
on the phenomenon known as Brugmanns Law.
321 accept the etymological interpretation Aschen-wurf": Schwyzer 1939 1:440; for the
absence of -o- between cut- and -, cf. -, -.
33 As in Old Church Slavonic politi be on fire.

The King and the Hearth

153

be on fire, which can be reconstructed as *as-edh-34 plus


stative suffix *-e-.35 Similarly, I reconstruct Latin re, arere be dry as *asplus stative suffix -e-, without the segment *-edh-. We may compare the
reconstructed doublet *as-edh- (arde, ord ere be on fire) vs. *s- (re,
arere) with Greek phleg-eth-o (--) vs. phleg-o (-), both mean
ing be on fire; also the solar names P ha-eth-n (-) vs. P h -n
(-), both meaning bright, shining.36 Within the semantic frame
work of cause, that is, fire, and effect, that is, no water, it is easy to ima
gine a development in the meaning of *s-e- from be on fire to be
dry. In Tocharian there is a verb as- (presumably from *h es-) meaning
become dry.37 For another aspect of the semantic factor no water" in
as-, we may consider the usage of the original participle of Latin ordere,
that is, a ssu s, which means roasted, broiled', that is, cooked without
water as opposed to elix u s boiled.38
An alternative reconstruction of ordere, *asi-dhe-, is disadvantageous
because there is no convincing morphological justification for an *-i-.39
Nor will it do simply to assume that ordere is derived from a rid u s dry, by
way of a syncope of --. In attested Latin, the formal and functional
correlates of stative adjectives in -id u s are stative verbs in -ere, not -(i)d err.
arde, o rd ere

hot
te p id u s ' warm
r id u s dry
c a lid u s

be hot
tepere be warm
ordere be on fire
calere

heat)
(te p o r warmth)
(a r d o r burning)
(c o lo r

I fail to see how an adjective rid u s meaning dry* could motivate a


derivative ordere meaning be on fire, especially when there already
exists a stative verb rere meaning be dry.40
The semantic distinction between

34 For an example of a Latin form in which rhotacism precedes syncope, cf. ornus
mountain-ash tree, from *orenos from *osenos (cf. Old Slavonic jaseni ash tree'), on
which see DELL 469. Also Leumann 1977.96,99, who contrasts the type omus with the type
(from *po-sin). Consider also Faler-nus (from *Falis-inos; cf. Falis-rf).
39 The Indo-European stative *-e- is familiar even from the internal evidence of Latin:
eaten be h o t, tepen 'be warm', albert be white, etc.
36 Cf. p. 235. For other such doublets, see Schwyzcr 1939.703.
37 We may compare the secondary length in the perfect and causative ds- (vs. present as-)
with the long radical vowel of I .atin arm .
38 Cf. DELL 51-52.
" T h is rejected etymology figures among those entertained by Sommer 1914.66-67; note
Sommers argument that arjet, putative formal equivalent of oriel, is a textual corruption.
40 Granted, a verb like gaudere presupposes an original formant *gyid-, latent in the par
ticiple gauisux note, however, that there is no trace o f any *arid- in the original participle
of ordert, which is, to repeat, asms (again, DELL 51-52).

154

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

ardent be on fire
and
arere be dry

from

*as-edh-e-

from

*as-e-

would be an illustration of Kurytowiczs so-called Fourth Law of Anal


ogy,41 in that the more evolved form has the basic meaning and the basic
form has the more evolved meaning. The basic form in this case, how
ever, that is, *s-, may still retain the basic meaning of burn* in the
noun-derivative area, which means ground, space free of buildings or
trees. The association of this word with trees seems to be the earlier
situation, as in the following context:
liber ab arboribus locus est, apta area pugnae

Ovid Fasti 5.707


the place is free of trees, an area suited for battle

Presumably, the area was originally a place where trees and bushes had
been burned clear for the purpose of farming. We may compare
Lithuanian ts-dagas arable land, derived from the verb deg-ti burn.42
Besides retaining the basic notion of burn in the Latin nominal
derivative area, the root as- also retains this notion in the Latin noun
derivative ara sacrificial fireplace, altar; attested with the same meaning
are the Oscan cognate aasat (locative singular) and the Umbrian cog
nate asa. The Italic form *ass-, which I reconstruct further as
h2es(s)oh2-,43 is direcdy comparable with the Hittite form hassasacrificial fireplace*, from *h2os(s)o-.44
Like Hittite hassa-, Latin ara is consistently associated with fire, as in
this example:
adolescunt ignibus arae

Virgil Georgies 4.379


the altars light up with the fires
41J. Kurylowiczs "Fourth law : Quand a la suite d une transformation morphologique
une forme subit la differentiation, la forme nouvelle correspond a sa fonction primaire (de
fondation), la forme ancienne est reservee pour la fonction secondaire (fondie)." Quoted
from Kurytowicz 1966 [1945-1949].169.
42 For further semantic analogues, cf. Reichelt 1914.315-316; Reichelts interpretation of
ara differs from the one presented here.
43 For the secondary character of the lengthened radical vowel overt in Latin and Oscan,
cf. the lengthening in drerr. also, cf. again such d /d variations as in druovs. deer, etc.
44 Cf. pp. 144-145.

The King and the Hearth

155

The Oscan cognate of Latin , namely s-, is actually combined with


an explicit adjectival derivative of pur- fire (cognate of Greek pur =
fire) in the locative phrase aasai purasiai on a fiery s- (147 A 16, B
19 Vetter). We may compare, too, the Umbrian sacral formula pir ase
antentu let him put fire on the s- in the Iguvine Tables (Ila 19-20, III
22-23).

Latin

a lt r ia

and

adolere

There is a latent trace of the connection between fire and Latin ra in


the formation altria sacrificial fireplace, altar. This neuter plural noun
arose from an adjectival alt-ri-; the first part is traditionally connected
with the root of adole, while the second is explained as the adjectival
suffix S i-, with dissimilation of the -l-.45 Instead, I propose that altria is a
Bahuvnhi compound meaning whose *as- is nurtured. I note the
incidental explanation in Paulus ex Festo 5 ed. Lindsay: altare, eo quod in
illo ignis excrescit called altare because fire develops there; to be con
trasted is the folk etymology recorded in Paulus ex Festo 27: altaria ab
altitudine dicta sunt called altria on account of the aMtude.
As justification for my interpretation of the alt- in altria as the verbal
adjective of alo nurture, I cite the common Latin expression ignem alere
nurture fire, that is, keep the fire going.46 The posited Bahuvnhi com
pound *al-to- + *as-i- whose *as- is nurtured has numerous morphologi
cal parallels in Indie, of the type hat-mtr- whose mother is killed;4748
among the examples from the Rig-Veda, I single out the semantically
crucial iddhagni- (1.83.4, 8.27.7), analyzed etymologically as *idh-ta- +
*agni-4B and meaning whose fire is kindled. Some morphological paral
lels in Latin itself are such compounds as uersipellis whose skin is
changed [literally turned]. In Plautus Amphitruo 123, Jupiter is so
described for having assumed human form; elsewhere, uersipellis desig
nates werewolf (Pliny Natural History 8.34; Petronius 62). We may com
pare too the epithet altilneus whose wool is nurtured, a specialized
word used in the Acts of the Arval Brethren to describe sacrificial sheep

45 DELL 24.
46 Cf. Cicero De natura deorum 3.37; Livy 21.1.4; Pliny Natural History 2.236; Ovid Metamor
phoses 10.173, Remedia Amoris 808; Tacitus Germania 45, Annals 15.38, Histories 3.71; etc.
47 Cf. Whitney 1896.446. For the phonological development from *alto-asi- to altari-,
with deleted *-o-, cf. the types magn-animus, rim-ex, etc.
48 Whether Indic agni- fire originates from *egni- or *ngni- is irrelevant to the recon
struction of iddhagni-.

156

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

(a. 183 I 24 ed. Henzen). In Virgil A en eid 12.169-170, a sacerdos priest


is sacrificing an in to n sa m bidentem unshorn sheep, and the setting is
fla g r a n tib u s aris, flaming altars (ccrae). The Servian commentary adds
( a d locu m ) the following explanation: qu am p o n tifices a ltila n e a m u o ca n t
and the priests [pon tifices] call it [the unshorn sheep] a il n e a \ For the
reconstructed notion of l n a m alere grow wool underlying the com
pound a ltild n e u s, we may compare the attested notions of ca p illu m alere
grow hair (Pliny N a tu r a l H istory 24.140) and p ilo s alere grow hair
(35.47).
As for the attested Latin notion of ignem alere nurture fire - keep the
fire going, I have found at least three parallels in the Indie traditions.
The first of these is an abstract noun derived from *al- nurture, which
has survived passim in the R ig-V eda with the specialized sense of designat
ing the wood with which the fire is kindled. The word for such wood is
ard n i-. From the etymological point of view, I am proposing that the
a rd n i- is the nurturing, nourishment of the fire.49 Since Latin a l can be
used in the sense of nurture [the embryo] within the uterus (e.g. Varro
D e re ru stica 2.4.13, Gellius 12.1.6, Paulus ex Festo 8, etc.), it may be
viewed as a comparable theme that the fire-god Agni of the R ig-V eda is
bom daily from firesticks called a r d n i* (3.29.2, 7.1.1, 10.7.9, etc.).50 Pro
duced from the ardnie, Agni is a newborn infant, hard to catch
(5.9.3-4).51 An epithet of Agni is m ta risv a n - (1.96.4, 3.5.9, 3.26.2),
which means swelling inside the mother (s v a n - from s - swell); as the
Mtarisvan, Agni was fashioned in his mother (d m im ita m d td ri
3.29.11).52*In short, I conclude that the a rd n i- is the a lm a m ater ; as it
were, of fire.
49 The derivation of arani- from *al- nurture is communicated as a possibility by R.
Hauschild to M. Mayrhofer; cf. KEWA s.v. (this possibility is more recently rejected in EWA
s.v.). There are numerous morphological parallels to the proposed derivation of ardni-, in
the reconstructed sense of nurturing, nourishment, from *al- nurture: I cite for example
Rig-Vedic dhumdni- blowing, from dham- blow (for a list of other such examples, cf.
Wackemagel and Debrunner 1954.207); cf. also p. 186n37 below. For an interesting analo
gue to the proposed semantic specialization of an abstract noun like arani- into the con
crete designation of the wood with which the fire is nurtured, 1 cite the post-Vedic mean
ing of tonini-; it is no longer abstract crossingfrom root tor- crossbut rather concrete
ship or concrete sun. In other words, the abstract notion of the act of crossing becomes
specialized as the concrete nodon of the means of crossing. (For a discussion of the process
whereby abstract nouns become concrete, see N 1970.63-65, 68-70; cf. also Em out
1954.179-183 ch. 6, Passage de labstrait au concret.") On the mythical themes of the
sun's crossing from the realm of light to the realm of darkness and back, see N
1979a.l92-210.
50 Rig-Veda 3.29.2 is quoted at p. 103.
511 note in passing that there are comparable themes concerning the infant Hermes in
the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.
5* More on Mtarisvan at pp. 1031F.

The King and the Hearth

157

This theme brings us to the second of the three Indie parallels to the
Latin notion of ignem alere nurture fire = keep the fire going. There is
a neuter noun aldta- firebrand, coal, attested for example in the
Mahabhrata, which can be interpreted etymologically as the nurturing
one, derivable from an earlier form *ala-.53 As the third and final exam
ple, I note that the Indie root *al- survives in the post-Vedic word for
fire, an-ala-, which has been interpreted as an original adjective mean
ing insatiable;54 we may compare Greek -altos (-) insatiable,
as in Odyssey xvii 228. There is ample thematic evidence that Indie poetic
traditions represent fire as the prime insatiable element.55 As long as a
fire is kept going, it must be fed, and it always needs more: hence an-ala-,
the insatiable one.
I reconstruct the -al- of Greek -altos insatiable as *h2el- (the would reflect *n- added at a stage when initial *h2- was already lost).
This root is also to be found in the causative formation *ol-ej-e / oattested in Latin adoleo and Umbrian uretu.56 In the case of Latin adoleo,
the sequence ol presents a phonological problem: word-medial ol should
survive as ul, as we see from the borrowings crapula from and
anculus from '. In archaic Latin, granted, we do see sporadic
traces of ol for ul (popolom, Hercolei, etc.), but the consistency of the form
adoleo and the total absence of *adule is puzzling. There is a similar
crux with suboles and indoles. Faced with these phonological problems,
one expert finds himself forced to assume morphological interference
with phonological change, in that sub-oles offshoot and ind-oles
inherent nature must be derivatives of olesco increase, be nurtured.57
In Festus 402 (ed. Lindsay), we read suboles ab olescendo, id est crescendo, ut
adolescentes quoque, et adultae, et indoles dicitur *suboles: from olesc, as also
adolescentes, adultae, indoles', an explanation followed by illustrative cita
tions from Lucretius (4.1232) and Virgil (Eclogues 4A9).
We now turn to the actual meaning of adoleo, as also of Umbrian
uretu. Although this verb is usually translated as bum , Latin adoleo can
be interpreted etymologically as nurture in terms of a causative forma
tion. As contextual affirmation of this etymology, let us test this transla
55 For morphological parallels, cf. the Rig-Vedic derivative iryla- from sarya- reed,
arrow; the derivational expansion of the base from -a- to -- is especially marked in
names of plants or trees, as in mrta- Spondias mangifera*. derived from - mango
(cf. Wackemagel and Debrunner 1954.269).
M Schulze 1966 [1927] .215-216. Cf. EWA 70.
55 Schulze pp. 215-216.
56 The *h2 disappears before *o. The etymology of Umbrian uretu as *oletod, equivalent
of Latin (ad-)oUtd let him b u m , is suggested m passant by Thumeysen 1907.800.
57 Leumann 1977.86.

158

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

tion in the following passages, where we should note as well the con
sistent collocation of adole with derivatives of the root *as-:
cruore captiuo adolere aras

Tacitus A nnals 14.30


nurture the ora -s with the blood of captives
igne puro altaria adolentur

Tacitus H istories 2.3


the a lt n a are nurtured with pure fire
sanguine conspergunt aras adolentque altaria donis

Lucretius 4.1237
they sprinkle the
ings

a ra s

with blood and they nurture the

altario

with offer

castis adedet dum altaria taedis

Virgil Aeneid 7.71

while . .. nurtures the altaria with pure pitch-pine58

I propose that the idea behind these expressions involving adole is that
the sacrificial fireplace is being M
nurturedn by being kept lit with flames
and, indirectly, with the material consumed by the flames. Where ad-olr
e is actually combined with alt-ria, the collocation of -ol- vs. alt- can be
said to reflect an inherited figura etymologias. We may compare the
definition in Paulus ex Festo 5 (ed. Lindsay): altaria sunt in quibus igne
adoletur *altaria are places in which there is adolere with fire*. For the
sense of nurture," we may compare the use of adole with penates, a
name for the gods of one's native sacrificial fireplace:
flam m is adolere penates

Virgil Aeneid 1.704


To nurture the penates with flames

Servius explains (ad locum) that the verb adolere is equivalent in usage to
58 A sacrifice is being described, at which Lavinias hair seems to catch on fire.

The King and the Hearth

159

increase*: adolere est p ro p rie augere. We may compare, too, the for
mal opposite of adole, aboleo , meaning cause to atrophy, check the
growth of, abolish*.
In Umbrian, the causative formation *ol-ej-e/o- is attested in the
sacral formula
a u g ere

p ir persklu ufetu
Iguvine Tables III

12; cf. IV 30

with a prayer, let him nurture the fire

The imperative u fe tu corresponds formally to Latin (a d -)oleto; for the


change firom -/- to -r-, we may compare Umbrian k a fe tu let him call,
from *kal- as in Latin calre call*. Semantically, Umbrian p i r . . . u fetu is
comparable with the Latin combination ign em alere.59
In the case of Latin adole , its formal and functional connection with
a id became eroded, so that the contextual association of adole with the
notion of burning promoted a less restricted and etymologically inaccu
rate usage. Consequently, adole in the simple sense of burn became
capable of taking direct objects designating material meant to be
burned, as in the following:
uerbenasque adole pin gu is et mascula tura

Virgil Eclogues 8.65

bum fertile boughs and male frankincense


Besides the formation *ol-ej-e/o of a dole , which we are translating as
nurture*, Latin has also preserved a stative-intransitive type *ol-e-, plus
iterative suffix *-sk-e/o-, in the verb a d o le sc become nurtured, grow;
the stative-intransitive *ol-e- is also attested in a d o le-fa ci cause to be nur
tured*, which occurs specifically in the context of thunderstruck trees in
the A cts o f the A r v a l B rethren ( arboru m ado lefa cta ru m , a . 224.16). Even the
verb ad o lesc is attested in the context of burning:
adolescunt ignibus arae

Virgil Georgies 4.379


th e altars are n u rtu re d [= light u p ] with th e re s

59 Note, however, the absence of Latin ignem adolere

160

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

We may compare also the Swedish verb ala be on fire.


The participle of adolesc become nurtured, grow had evolved in
meaning to become addiscens adolescent, and in this function a clearly
attested formal variant adulescens has been preserved.60 Thus the func
tion of the word as a noun tolerates the expected phonological develop
ment from ol to ul that is suppressed in the function of the word as an
adjective, a participle.

Latin focus
Besides the designation of sacrificial fireplace by way of a ra , a less
specialized designation for fireplace is fo c u s, which is attested in not
only sacral but also domestic contexts:
inde panem facito, fo lia subdito, in foco caldo sub testu coquito leniter

Cato De re rustica 75
make a loaf, place leaves, and bake slowly on a warm hearth under a crock

In this case Cato is giving a recipe for making the cake called libum (cf.
also D e re ru stica 76.2). Another clear example of fo c u s meaning domes
tic fireplace, hearth is the following:
m unda siet, uillam conuersam mundeque habeat, focum purum drcumuersum
cotidie priusquam cubitum eat habeat

Cato De re rustica 143.2


She [the uilica housekeeper] must be neat, and keep the farmstead neat
and clean. She must clean and tidy the hearth every night before she goes
to bed.

As for the sacral uses of the


Varro:

fo cu s,

we may consider the testimony of

sane Varro rerum diuinarum refert inter sacratas aras focos quoque sacrari solere, u t
in Capitolio Ioui Iunoni M ineruae, nec m inus in plurim is urbibus oppidisque, et id
tam p u d ice quam priuatim solere fieri . . . nec licere uel priu ata uel publica sacra
sine foco fieri, quod hic ostendit poeta

Servius Auctus on Virgil Aeneid 3.134


60 Cf. DELL 23.

The King and the Hearth

161

Indeed, Varro (Rerum diuinarum ) reports that amidst the arae that are con
secrated, fo c i too are regularly consecrated, as in the Capitolium to Jupiter,
Juno, Minerva; likewise in most cities and towns; and that this is regularly
done both publicly and privately;. . . and that it is not allowed to perform
public or private sacrifices without a focus. Which is what the Poet [Virgil]
shows here.

Varros report on the use of the focus in the Capitolium can be


directly linked with the mention of the derivative word foculus in the Acts
of the Arval Brethren, year A.D. 87: the setting is in Capitolio (a. 87 I 2),
and the promagisterof the brethren is presiding (I 2 and following); after
the preliminary sacral proceedings (1 2 -7 ), on the same day and in the
same place" (eodem die ibidem in area I 18), the same promagister does the
following:
hire et uino in igne in foculo fe a t
Acts o f the A rval Brethren a.

87 I 19 ed. Henzen

he made a sacrifice with incense and wine on the fire on the foculus

In the Acts of the Arval Brethren the uses of the ara and the foculus, both
located in luco in the grove, are in complementary distribution when it
comes to the sacrifice of pigs and cows: the porcae piaculares are regularly
immolated at the ara and the vacca honoraria, at the foculus.61 We may
compare the following statement:
quae prim a hostia ante foculum cecidit

Valerius Maximus 1.6.9


the first sacrificial animal that fell before the foculus

Unlike the ara, the focus/foculus is optionally movable,62 as the follow


ing passages attest:
adde preces positis et sua uerba foris

Ovid Fasti 2.542


add prayers and the appropriate words at the fo c i that are set down
61 AcU o f the Arval Brethren aa. 90.49-50; Domitian-era C I 2-5; 105 II 7-9; 118 I 59-62;
120.86-87; 155.32-84; M. Aureliuvera E 1-2; 188 II 21-22; 218 a 17-19; 240 (- Dessau
9522) II 4.
62 For a standard accounting from an abidingly useful manual: Wissowa 1912.475.

162

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

posito tura dederefoco

Ovid Fasti 4.354


a focus was set down and they offered incense63
crateras focosque ferunt

Virgil Aeneid 12.285


they take away the craters and fo c i
praetextatum immolasse ad tibicinem foculo posito

Pliny N atu ral H istory 22.11


to make an immolation while wearing the praetexta, to the accompaniment
of a reed-player, with a foculus set down
bona

. ..

consecrauit foculo potito in rostris adhibitoque tibicine

Cicero De domo sua 123


he consecrated the possessions. . . , with a foculus set down at the
with a reed-player summoned for the occasion
tu

...

rostra and

capite u d a to . . . foculo potito b o n a . . . consecrasti

Cicero D e domo sua 124


you consecrated the possessions . . . with head veiled and with a foculus set
down
Liberalia dicta, quod per totum oppidum eo die sedent sacerdotes Liberi anus edera
coronatae cum libis et foculo pro emptore sacrificantes

Varro De lingua latin a 6.14


Festival of Liber: throughout the town on that day, the priestesses of
Liber, old women wearing ivy on their heads, sit with cakes and a foculus,
and they sacrifice [the cakes] for any purchaser.

The nature of the focus/foculus is strictly ad hoc. In Catos De re rus


tica, for example, the foculus is catalogued simply as a rustic utensil (11.4,
16.3). Any place or thing on which a fire is started qualifies as a focus, as
we see from the following summary:

63 Context: before sailing on, the retinue of Claudia Quinta pauses to sacrifice a heifer.

The King and the Hearth

163

quidquid ignem fouet, focus uocatur, siue ara sit siue quid aliu d in quo ignis
fou etu r

Servius on Virgil Aeneid 12.118


Whatever fosters [fouet] a fire is called a focus, whether it be an
thing else in which fire is fostered [foueturJ.M

ara

or any

Such a wide range of applications is also illustrated by the semantic


development of Latin focus into the Romance word for fire" itself, as in
French feu, Italian fuoco, Spanish Jitego, and so on.
In light of what we have already seen of this Latin noun focus, with its
strikingly expansive semantic range of contextual settings, I bring this
section to a close by taking note of a striking gap in the history of the
Latin language. That is, there is no known etymology for focus.6465*69
Without making the results of the preceding observations on focus
depend in any way on what now follows, I suggest that there may be an
etymological connection between the noun focus, this premier word for
fireplace, and the verb fa, which not only means do or make in a
secular dimension but also serves as a premier word for sacrifice in the
dimension of the sacred. This is not to say that focus can be explained as
a direct reflex of a primary Indo-European noun-formation. Rather, the
point is that focus may perhaps represent a secondary Italic noun
formation, just as the present tense of the verb fa represents a secon
dary verb-formation. The <- of the present-tense fa is a secondary
extension from the -c- of the primary perfect formation, pci, direct cog
nate of Greek theka () placed. The inherited meaning of set, put,
place, as explicitly preserved in the Greek cognate, helps explain the
meaning of sacrifice in facio (e.g. Virgil Aeneid 8.189), and in the com
pound sacri-fic (e.g. Plautus Poenulus 320). More important for now, it
also helps explain the traditional collocations of focus with verbs meaning
set, put, place, as we have seen immediately above in the list of contexts
illustrating the movable nature of the focus. If we are to explain focus as a
64 The words fouet and fouetur here imply an etymological connection between verb foueo
'foster* and noun focus, but note the lengthened o in foculum, the derivation of which from
foueo seems assured by the collocation of the two words in Plautus Captivi 847. Thus we
must distinguish between Joculum, derivative of foueo, and fdcuhu, derivative of focus (as in
Cato De re rustica 11.4). For attestations showing the distinct vowel lengths, see DELL s.v.
foueo. The meaning of Joculum, conveying the notion of fostering'* or nurturing'* fire, is
analogous to that of altdria as discussed above. Perhaps the phonological closeness of
Jculoand foculo- is influenced by their semantic parallelism, in that both words designate a
movable fireplace. It is conceivable that this parallelism masks an earlier form *facuha,
derived from *focus, and that *facus was reshaped as focus on the model of an analogized
foculus. In which case, focus could perhaps be explained as a secondary derivative of /odd,
meaning something like setting*. More on this possibility in the discussion that follows.
69 DELL 243.

164

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

noun somehow derived from the verb /acid, we have to posit the generali
zation of the secondary -c- as part of the verb-stem fac- at an early enough
stage that it could generate noun-derivatives of the type focus*6 More
over, we would have to posit that the -o- of focus is secondary as well, since
there seems to be no way to derive a sequence like foe- directly from the
Indo-European root *dheh|(-k-)/*dhh|(-k-). Still, there is room for
positing an Italic or even Latin stage of derivation, with the secondary -oof focus being perhaps shaped by analogy.6667

Umbrian

a h ti- and aso-

Corresponding to Latin focus, the Umbrian word for "movable


fireplace is ahti-,68 which is etymologically an abstract noun *ag-ti- mean
ing carrying (from a verb cognate with Latin ago, agere); for the form
and the semantics, we may compare Latin uectis bolt, lever', which is
likewise an original abstract noun *yegh-ti- carrying (from the verb
attested as ueh, uehere). The usage of the word ahti- as movable
fireplace is not necessarily a feature of the Umbrian language in gen
eral: rather, it is a specialized feature of the repertoire of sacral texts
managed by the Atiedian Brethren of the Umbrian city of Iguvium, as
recorded in the set of inscriptions known as the Iguvine Tables. The ahtiis central to the religious life of Iguvium, as is evident from the rites
66 Cf. Umbrian facia, fac(i)u, fakust, facurmt, which are functional equivalents of Latin
fodat, facere, fecerit, fecerint respectively. Moreover, there may be a trace of e-grade in the
Umbrian imperative fetu, also spelled fritu. This form cannot correspond to Oscan factud,
the Umbrian cognate of which would be *faitu: we may compare the Umbrian imperative
aitu with the corresponding Oscan actud. Thus it is possible to reconstruct Umbrian fe(i)tu
as *fekit0d. An argument against the alternative possibility, *fekit0d, is that the inherited e o f
Umbrian is regularly spelled i in the Latin alphabet as opposed to e in the native Umbrian
alphabet (e.g. filiu in the Latin alphabet vs. fetiufxn the Umbrian). Yet, what corresponds
to the native Umbrian spelling fetu/feitu is the Latin spelling fetu/feitu/feetu, never */i/u.
67 See n64. Furthermore, the possible derivation of focus from the root of fae-i may have
a formal parallel: the noun iocus Jesting word(s)* can be derived from the verb iado
throw, hurl', with root *ieh,(-k-) as in the perfect ieci, For the semantics, we may compare
Greek epes-bolos, literally 'thrower of words', as in Iliad II 275: here the epithet is applied to
Thersites as an exponent of blame poetry, which is characterized by words of damaging rid
icule (on which subject see N 1979a.253-264, esp. p. 264). The *-k- of zero-grade *ih,-k- in
present-tense iado is again a secondary extension from the perfect ieci, just as in facto and
feci. Even in Classical Latin, iado is frequendy used with direct objects denoting things said
(e.g. contumeliam 'insult* in Cicero Pro Sulla 23). On the semantics of Umbrian iuka 'sacred
words, formula': Poultney 1959.199 and Boi^geaud 1982.190. Lithuanian Juokas may be a
borrowing from German jok, in turn a borrowing from Latin by way of Studentensprache:
LEW 197.
68 For my interpretation of ahti-, I have been guided by the critical discussion of textual
evidence in Devoto 1937.267-268,385-386; also Poultney 1959.165.

The King and the Hearth

165

described in Iguxtine Tables III 1 and following. After pir fire is kindled
on the way leading arven to the field (III 11-12), and after this fire is
later placed ase on the altar which is xmke in the grove (III 21-22),
then a sacrifice is made iuvepatre to Jupiter at the right side of the altar
(III 22-23) on behalf of the following:
fratrusper atiieries
ahtisper eikvasatis
tutaper iiuvina
trefiper iiuvina

for the Atiedian Brethren


for the ahtis eikvasatis
for the people of Iguvium
for the tribus of Iguvium69
Iguvine Tables III 23-24

Such a hierarchy of values is a most dramatic illustration of the impor


tance of the ahti- to the community. This Umbrian collocation of xmke
in the grove/ ase on the altar with ahtisper for the portable fireplaces
is comparable to the Latin collocation of in luco in the grove/in ara on
the altar with in foculo on the portable fireplace in the Acts of the Arval
Brethren.70
In what we have just seen quoted from the Iguvine Tables, the ablative
plural ahtis is combined with the postposition -per, which is parallel to the
Latin preposition pro for, on behalf of. This combination of ahti- and
-per is semantically parallel to the Latin phrase pro arts focisque, as in the
following examples:
sibi pro aris focisque et deum templis ac solo in quo n ati essent dim icandum fore

Livy 5.30.1
that they were going to have to fight it out on behalf of the drae& foct, the
sacred precincts of the gods, and the soil on which they were bom
pro p atria pro Uberis pro aris atque focis suis cernere

Sallust C atiline 59.5


to fight it out on behalf of the

patria,

the household-members, and their

drae& foci

69 On the Umbrian word trifii- tribe* (cognate of Latin tribus), see p. 278.
70 See p. 161. For other parallelisms between the Iguvine Tables and the Acts of the Arval
Brethren, see Vine 1986.

166

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

We may also compare the highly emotional and affective tone of Cicero's
references to arae&foci, as in Against Catiline 4.24; De domo sua 106, 143;
In Pisonem 91; Pro Sestio 90; and so on.
The sacral importance of the movable fireplace in Umbrian society is
apparent not only from the euphemistically abstract etymology of ahtiand from the importance of the ahti- in the hierarchy just quoted from
Iguvtne Tables 23-24; it is apparent also from the usage of the word in the
Atiedian fire ritual. The Iguxnne Tables contain two versions of this ritual,
one written in the native Umbrian alphabet (lb 10-16) and the other, in
the Latin alphabet (VIb 48-53). A careful study of the parallel texts
reveals several new details about the sacrificial fireplace in Italic ritual.
For the sake of convenience, the texts are divided here into sections A'
to H/ (native alphabet) and A to H (Latin alphabet), on the basis of
inherent divisions in subject-matter. In what follows, I print the Latin
alphabet in italics, and the native alphabet in roman, marked off by
brackets.
VIb 48-53
A

B
Ca
Cb
Da
Db
E
Fa

Fb

Fc

pone poplo afero heries


when he wishes lo perform a lustra
tion o f the people
avif aseriato etu
he shall go and observe the birds
ape angla combifiansiust
when he has announced the angla
perca arsmatiam anouihimu
he shall put on the perca arsmatia
cringatro hatu
he shall hold the cringatro
destrame scapia anouihimu
he shall put it on the right shoulder
pir endendu
he shall place fire
pone esonomeferar pufe pir entelust
when that in which he has placed
the fire is brought to the
sacrifice
erefertu poe perca arsmatiam habiest
the one who has the perca arsmatia
shall cany it
erihont aso destre onsefertu
the same shall carry the aso on his
right shoulder
ennom stiplatu parfa desua
then he shall pronounce a parfobird on the right

lb 10-16
A'

B'
C

Ipune puplum aferum heries}


when you wish to perform a lustra
tion of the people
(avef anzeriatu etu}
go and observe the birds
(pune kuvurtus}
when you have returned

D'

{krenkatrum hatu}
hold the {krenkatrum}

E'

(enumek pir ahtimem ententu}


then place fire in the {ahti-}
(pune pir entelus ahtimem}
when you have placed the fire in
the {ahti}

F'

G'

{enumek steplatu parfam tesvam}


then pronounce a {parfa}-bird on
the right

The King and the Hearth


H

seso Me iiouine
for himself and for the people-of
Iguvium

H'

167

(tete tute ikuvinel


for yourself and for the people of
Iguvium.

Here ends the fire ritual. Then follows the banishment ritual at
Acedonia, starting with ape acesoniame . . . benust when he has come to
Acedonia in the Latin alphabet (VIb 52-53), matched by {pune menes
akefuniamem) when you come to Acedonia* in the native alphabet (lb
15-16).
There are several details to be noted about the fire ritual. To begin,
the expression poe perca arsmatiam habiest the one who has the perca
anmatia' (Fb = VIb 50) is a tabu periphrasis occurring elsewhere, too
(VIb 53, 63; Vila 46, 51), to designate the arsfertur/ {affertur}, who is
the chief sacrificer in the cult of the Atiedian Brethren (Via 2, etc.).
Henceforth, he will be designated as Adfertor," the latinized equivalent
of the Umbrian tide.71 The perca of the Adfertor is something that he
wears, as is evident from the use of perca with anouihimu put on, wear
(Cb and Db, = VIb 49) and from its associauon with ponisiater/ (punicate)
(VIb 51/ l b 15), a word apparently related to Ladn pniceus dyed with
purple.72 In the fire ritual described at lb 10 and following, two officials
called {prinuvatu} are to accompany the Adfertor, and they are to have
(perkaf. . . punifatej (lb 15). Likewise, in the fire ritual described at VIb
48 and following, two prinuatur are to accompany the Adfertor, and they
are to have perca .. . ponisiater (VIb 51); meanwhile, the Adfertor himself
has perca arsmatiam (VIb 49, 50). The periphrasis designadng the Adfer
tor as the one who has the perca arsmatia is restricted to those parts of
the lguvine Tables that are written in the Latin alphabet. From those
parts written in the nadve alphabet, the idendty of the {affertur} with this
man who has the perca anmatia (poe perca arsmatiam habiest) becomes
obvious; in lb 41-42 (nadve alphabet), it is the (affertur) who chases a
sacrificial heifer while the two {prinuvatu) chase two; in Vila 51-52 (Ladn
alphabet), the sacrificial heifers are chased by poe perca arsmatiam habiest
the one who has the perca anmatia and the prinuatur.
In the parallel texts for the fire ritual presently under consideradon,
the tabu periphrasis poe perca arsmatiam habiest in the Ladn alphabet ver
sion (A-H) cannot be contrasted directly with a counterpart in the native
alphabet version (A'-H'), since in one case the Adfertor is instructed in
the grammadcal third person (A-H) whereas in the other he is instructed
in the second person (A'-H'). There is, however, a direct contrast in the
71 For Celtic parallels to the Italic concept of 'Adfertor: Borgeaud 1982.31, with bibliog
raphy.
74 See Em out 1961.126.

168

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

devices used by the two texts in referring to the movable fireplace: ver
sion A-Ht which shows a reluctance to name the chief sacrificer of the
Atiedian Brethren by title, also shows a reluctance to use the brethrens
word ahti- movable fireplace, the equivalent of Latin focus. As we have
seen, section E has pir endendu he shall place fire while section E' has
{enumek pir ahtimem ententu) then place fire in the {ahti-}. We should
note, too, the tabu periphrasis in section Fa, pufe pir entelust, in place of
the word ahti-: instead of some direct statement, such as when the ahtiis brought to the sacrifice," we see in section Fa this periphrasis: pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust when that in which he has placed the fire is
brought to the sacrifice. In the version with the Latin letters, then,
specific words dealing with the cult officers and cult objects of the
Atiedian Brethren are treated with special caution; perhaps the same fac
tor of caution explains the regular use of the third person in instructing
the Atiedian sacrifice, as opposed to the second person in the version
with native letters.
Besides being more circumspect, the instructions in version A-H are
also more precise and detailed than in version A'-H'. Greater detail may
imply less familiarity with the prescribed way of doing things; consider
section Db, where it is specified that the sacrificer must place the gar?
ment cringatro on his right shoulder; in section D\ by contrast, it had
sufficed to prescribe that the sacrificer must hold the {krenkatrum}.
(This garment cringatro/ {krenkatrum} is comparable to Latin cindus or
cingulum.) Presumably, the stark prescription of section D' was enough
of a reminder about what to do next; section Da, by contrast, also
prescribes that the sacrificer must hold the cringatro, but further
specification has to follow in Db about what to do with it, namely, to put
it on. The reason for putting the cringatro specifically on the right
shoulder becomes apparent later: the sacrificer who puts on the
cringatro/ {krenkatrum} is none other than the anfertur/ {affertur} Adfertor (cf. Cb: the same sacrificer is putting on the perca arsmatiam). The
Adfertor then proceeds to place fire in the ahti- movable fireplace (cf.
E /E \ Fa/F'), which at that point is brought to the sacrifice" (esonome
ferar. Fa). The one who brings the ahti- to the sacrifice is the Adfertor
himself (cf. Fb), and he carries it on his right shoulder (cf. Fc). It
appears, therefore, that the garment called cringatro/ {krenkatrum} may
have served to shield the Adfertors right shoulder from the heat of the
ahti- which he was to carry. Presumably, this ahti- was some kind of bra
zier: we may compare the brazen cribrum used by the Vestal Virgins as a
movable fireplace, described as follows:
ignis Vestae quando interstinctus esset, uirgines uerberibus adjiciebantur a
pontifice, quibus mos erat tabulam felicis materiae tam diu terebrare, quousque

The King and the Hearth

169

exceptum ignem cribro aeneo uirgp in aedem ferret

Paulus ex Festo 94 ed. Lindsay


Whenever the fire of Vesta was interrupted, the Virgins were beaten by the
pontifex , their custom was to bore a tabula of felix materia until a fire could
be taken and brought in a brazen cribrum to the sanctuary by a Virgin.

We may compare the usage of tabula board here with the following
instruction in Iguvine Tables lib 12: {tafle e pir fertu) carry the fire there
on a tafia', where Umbrian tafla is the equivalent of Latin tabula. We
may note too that the wood used to kindle the fire is called mteria. The
form of this noun suggests that it is derived from mater mother.73 In
addition, the mteria is described with the word filix, an adjective desig
nating fertility and the power of nurturing. Immediately comparable in
theme is the expression ignem alere nurture fire*74 and the cognate Indie
theme of the fire-god as Mtarisvan, that is, the one who is nurtured
inside the mother.75 We may note too that the enclosure of the Indie
Grhapatya, the domestic fireplace, is actually called yoni- female geni
talia (Satapatha-Brhmana 7.1.1.12).76
In the same set of instructions where the text of the Iguvine Tables,
quoted above, studiously avoids use of the Atiedian word ahti- to desig
nate movable fireplace (E-F), there does occur a synonym, spelled asa
Fc

erihont aso desire oruefertu


Iguvine Tables W h

50

the same [= the Adfertor] shall carry the aso on his right shoulder

Because of the specification of the right shoulder in section Fc, what is


not directly mentioned by name in Fa (pufe pir entelust that in which he
has placed the fire) has to be mentioned again, and this time it is done
not by periphrasis but by use of an equivalent word for movable
fireplace. This Umbrian word aso is apparently not part of the Atiedian
sacral vocabulary, and it is probably for this reason that it could be writ
ten out in the tabu-conscious ritual instructions of VIb 48-53, whereas
ahti-vras not mentioned direedy but by periphrasis.77Just as Umbrian asa
73 Seep. 106.
74 See p. 155.
75 See p. 156; also, p. 106.

76See pp. 105-106.


77 This interpretation of Umbrian aso is ofTered as an alternative to the one found in the
handbooks, where aso is understood as roast meat* or the like (cf. I.atin ossum). The con
textual disadvantages of the latter interpretation are apparent from the discussion by
Devoto 1937.268-269 and Em out 1961.111.

170

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

(Iguvine Tables Ila 38, etc.) can be reconstructed as *ss-, so also aso
(VIb 50) from *asso-. Removing the factor of geminated *s, we may
reconstruct *aso- as *h es-o-; in other words, I propose that Umbrian aso
is the cognate of Hittite hassa- sacrificial fireplace.
2

The Meaning of Hittite has-/fm ssa-/hassu- from the Standpoint of


Myth and Ritual
Among the noun-reflexes of the Indo-European root *li es-, our sur
vey has suggested that the semantic basis is the notion of fireplace:
2

Hittite hassaIndic uaOld Norse arinn, etc.


German Esse, etc.
English ashes, etc.
Greek ,
Latin dra, aliaria
Oscan aasaUmbrian asa
Umbrian aso

sacrificial fireplace
ashes
sacrificial fireplace
smiths fireplace
ashes
soot
sacrificial fireplace, altar
sacrificial fireplace, altar
sacrificial fireplace, altar
sacrificial fireplace (m ovable)

The semantically anomalous reflexes of *h2es- remain the Hittite verb


has- beget and noun hassu- king. In light of the myths and rituals that
we have surveyed, however, these meanings fit the broader context of
the sacrificial fireplace as the generatrix of kingship and the authority of
kingship, which has been all along the focus of this inquiry.
In this connection, we may add that the formula which the Hittite
hassu- uses in referring to himself is ^UTUit my sun, as in the Autobiog
raphy of King Hattusilis III (passim). This usage seems distinctly Hittite,
in that there is no corresponding mechanism for designating ego +
first person singular in Akkadian texts (where the expected form would
have been SAMSI my sun + third person singular). In the Royal Fun
erary Ritual of the Hittites,78 which features the cremation of the hassuking and offerings at the hassa- sacrificial fireplace (passim), one of
the prime recipients of these offerings is the great state god ^UTU sun;
after the hassu- has died, he joins this very god ^UTU.79 In fact, after the
hassu- has died, he himself becomes a god.80 This belief also seems
7KThe texts of the Royal Funerary Ritual have been collected by Otten 1958. For a sur
vey of the specific passages dealing with the afterlife of the king, see Otten pp. 115,
119-120.
79 Otten pp. 113, 119-120.
*>Otten pp. 115.119-120.

The King and the Hearth

171

distinctly Hittite, as we may see from the attenuated Akkadian translation


of the following Hittite statement spoken by King Mursilis II:
ABUYA

DINGIR^-ii kisat
Ouen 1958.120

[when] my father became a god


We may contrast the parallel Akkadian version:
ABUYA A R K ISIM TISU KJ IL U K U

Ouen 1958.120
when my father went to his destiny

We may compare also the following prayer:


n [u -f]ka-ru -ti ma-ah-ha-an an-na-za SA-za ha-as-sa-[a]n-za e-su-un
n(u-m] u-kdn DINGIR-KA a-ap-pa a-pu-u-un ZI-an an-da ta-a-i
[nu-m]u tu-elSA DINGIR-KA ZI~KA am-mu-uk [
[a]t-ta-as-m a-as an-na-as ha-as-sa-an-na-as x x x
[Z]II Aki-sa-an-ta-ru

] IGI-an-da

Ouen 1958.123-124
Already when I was begotten [has-] from the inside of my mother, then
you, my god, put this anim us" [ZI = istanza -] in for me; and may your
divine "anim us " become for me the anim i" of my father, mother, and
gens.

This theme brings us back to our starting point, that is, the IndoEuropean pattern of thought that links the rising of the sun at dawn as
parallel to the kindling of the sacrificial fire. This parallelism, as we have
seen, is explicit in the ritual language of the Vedas and it is implicit in
the possible affinity between Indo-European roots in words for dawn,
notably Greek eos and Latin aurora, and in words for hearth*, notably
Greek hesUa and Latin Vesta. In other words, the possibility remains that
the macrocosm of dawn and the microcosm of sacrificial fire are desig
nated with variants of the same root, with *heys- for dawn and *hyesfor fireplace.

172

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

If indeed the Hittite hassu- king, as we have just seen, considers his
identity to be that of the sun, it follows that the begetting of the king is
parallel to the kindling of the sun; in that case, the Hittite verb hasbeget* is thematically connected to the Hittite noun hassu- king*. From
the etymological point of view, has- may then be translated as kindle,
light up'. For an example of the reverse in semantic development, we
may consider English kindle, which had meant beget (Middle English),
then set on fire'; another example is Old Norse kveikja beget, kindle
(the noun hveika means fuel). Finally, we may compare the Latin noun
adulescens/ adolescens young man, the participial origin of which reveals
the built-in metaphor that we have already examined in detail: becom
ing nurtured as fire becomes nurtured.
Such an etymological interpretation of Hittite fuissu- as the one who
is lit up, kindled is reinforced by a well-known theme in Italic myth, con
cerning ritual fire. The protagonist of this myth is the Roman king Ser
vius Tullius, whom Georges Dumezil has singled out as representing the
features of the ideal king from the standpoint of patterns in IndoEuropean mythmaking.81 If indeed it is valid to claim that Latin ora is
related to Hittite hassa- sacrificial fireplace and that Latin focus is the
functional correlate of the era, then the following myth of Servius and
the focus is decisive:
non praeteribo et unum fori exemplum Romanis litteris clarum: Tarquinio Prisco
regnante tradunt repente in foco eius comparuisse genitale e cinere masculi sexus
eamque, quae insederat ibi, Tanaquilis reginae ancillam Ocresiam captiuam con
surrexisse grauidam; ita Seruium Tullium natum, qui regno successit; inde et in
regia cubanti ei puero caput arsisse, creditumque laris familiaris filium; ob id Com
pitalia ludos laribus primum instituisse.

Pliny Natural History 36.204


I will not pass over a famous example of the focus in Roman literature. In
the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, they say that there suddenly appeared in
his focus a genital organ of male sex out of the ashes, and that it impreg
nated Ocresia, who had sat there. She was an enslaved handmaiden of
Queen Tanaquil. Thus was Servius Tullius bom, and he succeeded to the
kingship. When he was a boy sleeping in the palace, his head caught on
fire, and he was believed to be the son of the Lrfamiliaris. For this reason
he was the first to institute the Compitalia Games for the lares.

This version can be supplemented with another:


81 Dumezil 1943.

The King and the Hearth

173

namque pater Tulli Volcanos, Ocresia mater


praesignisfade Corniculana fuit,
hanc secum Tanaquil sacris de more peractis
iussit in ornatumfundere uina focum,
hic inter cineres obsceniforma uirilis
aut fuit aut uisa est, sedfuit illa magis,
iussafoco captiua sedet, conceptus ab illa
Seruius a caelo semina gentis habet,
signa dedit genitor tunc cum caput igne corusco
contigit, inque comisflammeus arsit apex.

Ovid Fasti 6.625-634


For the father of Tullius was Vulcan, and Ocresia of

Corniculum, distinguished in beauty, was his mother.


When the sacred rites were enacted, according to tradition,
Tanaquil ordered her to pour wine into the ornate focus.
At this point, among the ashes, there was, or seemed to be,
the male form of something indecent. More likely there was one.
Ordered to do so, the slave girl sat at the focus. Conceived
by her, Servius has the seeds of his gens from the sky.
His father gave a sign, at the time when he touched his head
with flashing fire, and a flame lit up in his hair.

In this remarkable passage the preoccupation of the myth with a ritual


context is especially clear. There is also a lengthy account of the same
myth in Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 4.2.1-4. Romulus
and Remus themselves were begotten likewise, according to a myth
recorded by Plutarch (Romulus 2.4-8). The same goes for Caeculus,
founder of Praeneste and ancestor of the distinguished gens Caecilia
(Servius on Virgil Aeneid 7.678).82*
I close by citing once more a striking detail from the myth about the
begetting of Servius, the Italic king par excellence, from the sacrificial
fireplace. As we have seen in both versions just quoted, there is an out
ward sign that warrants the truth of the kings being generated from the
e m b e r s of the hearth. To m a r k the moment that his kingship is revealed,
the head of Servius literally lights up. The radiant visage of the king, the
ideal human, is a theme that may be linked with the etymology that I
have already suggested for Greek dnthrpos () human, that is,
82 For a conscientious collection of testimonia about these Italic myths, see Alfoldi
1974.182-185; also Bremmer and Horsfall 1987.49-53. a . Brelich 1949.70, 96-100; also
Dumezil 1966.69 1.320-321, who adduces Indie parallels; for example, one particular epic
figure is begotten by the fire-god Agni in the Grhapatya domestic fireplace (Mahbhrata
3.213.4511).

174

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

he who has the looks of embers.85 In line with a ubiquitous theme of


mythmaking, that the first human is the first king,84 this image of the
king with a visage glowing from the fire of the hearth is a symbol for the
never-ending search of myth to grasp the celestial affinities of human
kind.85 We come back, full circle, to Clytemnestras dream in the Electra
of Sophocles (417-423): in the vision, to repeat, the king of Mycenae
places his scepter into the royal hearth (419-420), and from it grows a
shoot so vigorous that it covers with its shade all the kingdom of
Mycenae (421-423). The hearth, as we have seen, is the focus for
reveries about the fathers generation of a son without the exogamous
intermediacy of a female outsider. The female insider, the ultimate gen
eratrix, is in such reveries the hearth itself, and from it emanates the
essence of authority, made manifest in the radiant visage of the ideal
king.

Appendix. Conflicting Semiotics of Cremation, Inhumation,


Exposition: An Iranian Case in Point
In Avestan usage, the root *as- (from *h2es-) is attested as the com
ponent *ah-(ya-) in the compounding of samia- plus *ahiia- - samie.hiiaThe word sairiia- designates the dried manure used as a proper funerary
resting place for the corpse, Vendidad 8.8; the word samie.hiia- is attested
only once, Vendidad 8.83. It has been traditionally interpreted to mean
apparatus for drying manure,86 where the semantics of root *ascorrespond to what we find in Latin rere be dry, Tocharian as- dry,
and so on.87 I propose an alternative explanation of samie.hiia-, interpret
ing its etymology as apparatus for burning manure. As we shall see, this
interpretation helps explain some crucial details of conflicting Iranian
ideologies concerning the funerary practices of cremation, inhumation,
and exposition.
8S See p. 151n30.
M A classic on this subject is the two-volume work of Christensen 1918 and 1934.
85 Such a theme may prove to be the key to understanding the etymological relationship
of Greek aner () man with norops, a Homeric adjective glossed as bright in
Hesychius (e.g. s.v. ) and used as a formulaic synonym of aithops with looks of fire,
fiery-looking' in Homeric diction (e.g. postvocalic vmpom vs. postconsonantal atBom
). On the presence and absence, respectively, of initial a as reflex of laryngeal *h, in
egrade aner (*h*ner-) and grade nor (*hjnor-), see Beckes 1969.75-76.
86 Bartholomae 1904.1565.
87 At pp. 153ff., I have argued that the semantics of Latin rere be dry' are secondary,
and that the root *as- of this verb can be reconstructed as meaning bum*, as reflected in
the derivative noun area.

The King and the Hearth

175

According to Zoroastrian precepts, exposing a corpse to be eaten by


dogs and birds is the proper funerary procedure, rather than cremation
or inhumation (Vendidad 8 passim). I draw attention here to the con
trast with the Indie custom of cremation (e.g. Rig-Veda 10.16, etc.),88 and
with the Greek customs of cremation and inhumation, as discussed ear
lier.89 More specifically, I also draw attention to the contrast,
established in the Iliad, between the sacredness of cremadng a corpse,
which I have argued is considered the key to successful afterlife,90 and
the abomination of exposing a corpse to be eaten by dogs and birds, a
custom cited at the very beginning of the Iliad (I 4-5) and pervading the
rest of the epic as the ultimate image of inhumanity, a symbolic threat to
the very afterlife of the deceased.91
Zoroastrian ideology, in symmetrical contrast, not only sanctions the
exposition of the corpse to dogs and birds: it also singles out the custom
of cremation as an abomination, and there are elaborate protective ritu
als for the true believer to follow in the event that he should come upon
atmn nasupakim a corpse-cooking fire (Vendidad 8.73 and following).
Such clear provisions for the eventuality of discovering the practice of
cremation suggest that this funerary procedure, though forbidden by the
Zoroastrian norm, was widespread in various areas of Iranian society.
In one instance the people of an entire region are singled out for
traces of this particular aberration from orthodoxy: in the first book of
the Vendidad, a tract against daeuua-s demons, the Zoroastrian religious
community is represented by sixteen regions of Iranian society, and from
among these, the thirteenth best region, called Caxra The ChariotWheel, is described as being tainted with the practice of corpse cook
ing ( Vendidad 1.16). We may compare these other aberrations from
Zoroastrian orthodoxy:
The tenth best region, called Haraxvaiti (= Old Persian Harahuvati in
the Behistun Inscription, = Arachosia), is tainted with the practice of
corpse burying, that is, inhumation ( Vendidad 1.12).
The sixth best" region, called Haroiuua (= Old Persian Haraiva, = latterday Herat), is tainted with the practice of keening or funeral dirges ( Vendi
dad 1.8: sraslam ca driuuikca weeping and howling).

88 Cf. Caland 1896. This is not to say, of course, that cremation is the only type of Indie
funerary practice.
89 See pp. 85, 129.
90 See pp. 86ff.
91 . N 1979a.224-227.

176

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

In the latter case we may note again a symmetrical contrast with Greek
customs, as reflected in the Mad, which not only describes the practice of
keening or funeral dirges as the norm but equates the very essence of
this institution with the characterization of its main hero, Achilles, that
man of constant sorrow.92 The Zoroastrian ideology shows the converse,
where the very building that is designated for the exposition of the
corpse is conceived as the Tower of Silence in Parsee usage.93
At the end of the first book of the Zoroastrian Vendidad (1.20), it is
pointed out that there are other regions in the Zoroastrian communityat-large besides the sixteen that are formally listed. As for the choice of
the sixteen best regions and their arrangement in descending order of
value, the desired effect is to symbolize the geographical spread of
Zoroastrian orthodoxy.94
At the top of the list in Vendidad 1 are those regions that were the first
to accept Zoroastrian orthodoxy:
1st:
2nd:
3rd:
4th:
5th:
6th:

Airiianam Vaejah = Ariana


SuySa = Sogdiana
Mourn = Margiana
BxSi = Bactriana
Nisiia
Hariuua = Aria

It has been argued the best Zoroastrian region of all, the Aryan Vaejah,"
homeland of ZaraOustra - Zoroaster, is to be identified as ^rizm =
Chorasmia.95 The Avesta explicitly connects Zarafiustra with the Aryan
Vaejah" (Yast 5.17-18, 104), and it was at the river Ditii, closely associ
ated with this region, that ZaraOustra made sacrifice (Yast 5.104, 15.2).
The precise localization of the Aryan Vaejah, which counts as the
sacred space of Zoroastrianism itself, seems to have varied in the course
of time, following the shifting localizations of power and influence, and
it seems clear that Chorasmia, even if it merits the title the Aryan
Vaejah, was not the only region to be described this way.96 The point
remains, in any case, that the six regions heading the list of Vendidad 1
are apparently to be located in East Iran, visualized as contiguous with
92 Full presentation of the argument in N 1979a.94-l 17.
95 Cf. Humbach 1961.99.
94 Cf. Nyberg 1938.313-327. There is considerable disagreement about the precise loca
tion of many of the places mentioned in Vendidad 1; cf. e.g. Gnoli 1980.23ff.
95 E.g. Nyberg p. 326.
96 Cf. Davidson 1985.93-94, 101, with further bibliography (esp. Duchesne-Guillemin
1979.63; also Gnoli 1980.9Iff).

The King and the Hearth

177

each other, and that they are the nucleus of Zoroastrian orthodoxy,
from where it spread to regions such as Caxra.
On the steppes of Central Asia in general, of which East Iran forms a
part, the poorly wooded terrain makes cremation impractical, and it is
no coincidence that the alternative custom of exposition is a characteris
tic feature of the peoples living in the Central Asiatic steppes, including
the Mongols.9798Since the nucleus of Zoroastrian orthodoxy is to be
located in the East Iranian steppes, it follows that the Zoroastrian custom
of exposition was an areal feature acquired by the East Iranians from
their Central Asiatic neighbors. As Zoroastrian orthodoxy spread, the
custom of exposition came into conflict with that of cremation, such as
practiced by the people of Caxra. The specific mention of corpse cook
ing as the plague of Caxra (Vendidad 1.16) suggests that the inhabitants
clung to an older custom that was difficult to uproot.96 Given the clearly
attested Indie custom of cremation (e.g. Rig-Veda 10.16, etc.),99 the
Iranian attestations of non-Zoroastrian corpse cooking suggest an
Indo-Iranian pedigree for the custom of cremation as opposed to exposi
tion.
There is also direct evidence that the Zoroastrian custom of exposi
tion was generally preceded by that of cremation: the actual Zoroastrian
word designating the place built for exposing the corpse is daxma (Vendi
dad 5.14, 8.2), which from an etymological point of view means burn
ing (whence place for burning, cremation") from verb dag- bum (as
attested in Yasna 71.8, etc.). In other words, I am arguing that the origi
nal place of the funeral pyre was converted into the place of exposition,
without so much as a change in the word used to designate the place
itself.100 There are instances where the word daxma at least implies a
97 Nyberg p. 310.
98 Nyberg pp. 321-322.
99 Cf. Caland 1896. To repeat, this is not to say that cremation is the only type of Indie
funerary practice.
100 T h e standard etymology of daxma as burning'* (whence place for burning, crema
tion) from verb dag- 'burn', as we find it in e.g. Bartholomae 1904.676, has been chal
lenged by Hoffmann 1975 fl965].338. on the basis o f arguments presented by Humbach
1961, who shows that daxma in e.g. Vendidad 7.49 and following designates something like a
mausoleum, that is, a roofed and sealed building in which the corpse is sheltered from
the elements, as distinct from the open-sky format required by the orthodox Zoroastrian
place of exposition. And yet, Humbach himself points out (p. 101) that daxma in e.g. Ven
didad 5.14. 8.2 designates an orthodox Zoroastrian place of exposition. In other words, the
referent o f this word daxma in the language of the Avesta can vary from the orthodox place
of exposition to the anti-orthodox mausoleum (for examples of New Persian daxma in
this sense o f mausoleum in the epic tradition of the Shahnama of Ferdowsi, see Humbach
p.100). Given this range of variation, we may continue to posit yet another nonorthodox
variant among the referents of daxma, that is, a place where the corpse is cremated rather
than exposed to the elements. And I am arguing that this particular variant represents the
earliest meaning of daxma.

178

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

place of cremation: in Vendidad 7.49-58 (cf. also 3.13), we see variations


on the theme of an illegal** daxma, described as a place frequented by
daeuua-s 'demons, fiends who are the primordial enemies of Ahura,
head of the pantheon. In line with the opprobrium of corpse cooking,
it seems that the daeuua-s are being described as actually devouring the
dead who are cooked at the daxma (Vendidad7.55).
The fact that Zoroastrian teaching holds cremation to be an abomina
tion has a bearing on the context of sairiie.hiia- in Vendidad 8.83. In Ven
didad 8.81-96, there is a catalogue of merits to be gained by bringing
various kinds of fire to the central fire of purification; the more impure
the fire, the greater the merit. The reasoning behind this mentality, as
reflected to this day by the ritual practices of the Zoroastrian Parsees, has
been described as follows:101
Since the goal of all these procedures is to obtain a fire that is as pure as
possible, the question remains why it is necessary to use for these pro
cedures, among other things, the fire that is the most impure that one can
imagine, that is, the fire that has burned a cadaver. Clearly, the reason is
that the goal is also to deliver the fire from its impurity, to save it.
In Vendidad 8, the m ost im pure fire o f them all is corpse-cooking fire:
y cUnm nasupdkim ditim gatum au u i auua.baraiti

Vendidad 8.81

who brings corpse-cooking fire to the prescribed place . . .

In this case, the person who brings such impure fire to the central fire of
purification merits 10,000 firebrands.
The second in rank among all impure fires is described as follows:
y tn m uruxdipkim ditim gtum a uui auua.baraiti

Vendidad 8.82

who brings fluid-cooking fire to the prescribed place . . .

In this case, the person who brings such impure fire to the central fire
merits 1,000 firebrands. The reference to fluid here seems to concern
fluids emanating from the body: Denkart 8.46 offers the explanatory
description hixrpdk excrement cooking.102
101 Duchesne-Guillemin 1962.82 (my translation).

102 Bartholomae 1904.1553.

The King and the Hearth

179

The third in rank among all im pure fires is described as follows:


y trdm sa m ie .h iia t h aca d itim g tu m a u u i a u u a .b a ra iti
V endidad

who brings fire from the

sarn ie, h iia - to

8.83

the prescribed place . . .

In this case, the one who brings such fire merits 500 firebrands.
From then on, the catalogue lists fires destined for secular uses, such
as the fire from a potters fireplace (Vendidad 8.84), from a goldsmiths
fireplace (8.87), from a bakers fireplace (8.91), and so on. Last on the
list is the fire that is easiest to bring, namely, from the nearest place:
y trdm n a zd ista t h aca d itim g tu m a u u i a u u a .b a ra iti
V endidad

8.96

who brings fire from the nearest place to the prescribed place . . .

In this case, the bringer merits 10 firebrands.


The essential question remains: why does fire from the sarnie, hiiarank so high in degree of abomination that it should be listed direcdy
after fire for burning the body and after fire for burning fluid discharge
from the body? The answer may well be concealed in the use of sairiiamanure as a resting place for the corpse:
av.ua.he gtu m baraiidn iriiehe v sairiieh e v
V endidad

8.8

they should bring f o r him [= the corpse] as a place either ashes or manure

The context shows that this practice follows the dictates of Zoroastrian
orthodoxy, just like the practice of exposing the corpse in the daxma.
Yet the daxma, if my argum ent holds, was at an earlier stage the place of
cremation, not exposition. Similarly, I propose, sairiia- manure was at
an earlier stage a fuel, or an ingredient in the fuel, for cremation. In the
Zoroastrian orthodoxy, use of the term daxma was retained but con
verted to designate the place of exposition rather than cremation. Simi
larly, I suggest, any use o f m anure as fuel for cremating the corpse would
have to be converted: the body is to be laid out on manure, but neither
the body nor the m anure may be burned. We must note that the custom
of using manure as an ingredient for cremation has survived in latter-day

180

The Hellenization o f Indo-European Myth and Ritual

India.103 Moreover, m anure is the com m on domestic fuel in Jat^


India. If the custom o f using m anure for fuel is o f Indo-Iranian pr0v^y
ence, then Avestan sairiie.hiia- may have at an earlier stage design^
simply a place where m anure was burned.
^
To sum up: Zoroastrian orthodoxy prescribes manure as a ^
place for the corpse; since corpse burning is forbidden, it follows $
m anure burning should also be forbidden because of the surviving
ation of m anure with the resting place of the corpse. Because of this as/
ciation, the use of m anure for secular fuel may be forbidden along ^
its use for cremating the corpse.
In fact, the custom o f burning m anure may be of Indo-European pro>
venience: we may consider the Latin noun fim us manure, apparently
derived from fi as in suffio fum igate (Cato De re rustica 113.1) or bum
for the purpose o f fumigation (Pliny Natural History 28.42, etc.); we may
compare the root-formation *dhyn- o f suffi with the *dh- of f nns
smoke.104 We may note also the reports about the stercus manure that
is ritually swept out of the precinct of Vesta, Roman goddess of the
domestic fireplace (Varro De lingua latina 6.32, Festus 344 Lindsay).105
The subject of fumigation brings this presentation to a close. And
aptly so, since the very concept o f fumigation is pertinent to the focus of
the entire study, the setting o f the sacrificial fireplace. I cite the forma
tion o f fmig fumigate, which happens to be parallel to prg purify,
from an earlier pwrigp (as in Plautus Miles 177).106 Following Rudolf Thurneysen,1071 interpret prg/prig purify as derived from an underlying
expression *pur agere carry fire, formally parallel to remigo row, derived
from an underlying expression remum agere by way o f the intermediate
formation remex, remigis. Against the conventional rejection of
Thumeysens positing an underlying *pr agere carry fire,108 I cite the
Umbrian collocation pir ahtimem ententu place fire in the ahti- in Iguvint
Tables lb 12, where pir (< *pur) is com bined with the abstract noun ahh
(< *ag-ti-) derived from a verb surviving in Latin as agere.109 The Umbrian
ahti-, receptacle o f the sacred fire, is the source o f purification for the
community.
109Cf. Dubois 1924.485; also Gonda 1960.130.
Cf. DELL s.v. suffio.
105Cf. Dumezil 1959a.97-98.
106In this connection, we may compare the obscure gloss exfir in Paulus ex Festo
Lindsay, where purgamentumseems to be equated with suffitio:
l0 i

exfir, purgamentum, unde adhuc manet suffitio


107 Thumeysen 1912-1913.276-281; cf. Leumann 1977.550.
108E.g. DELL s.v. prg.
109 See pp. 164ff.

CHAPTER 7

Thunder and the


Birth of Humankind

In the mythmaking traditions of a wide variety of societies, there is a


convergent pattern of thought concerning the origin of fire: that a
stroke of thunder can deposit fire into trees or rocks and that this fire of
thunder is extracted whenever friction is applied to these materials.1
Oftentimes the god of the thunderbolt is pictured as being actually
incarnated within the material.2 There are also numerous occurrences of
a related line of thought, equating the friction of making fire with the
friction of making love. Besides the ample documentation of this equa
tion in the lore of diverse societies,3 we may consider the formulation of
the philosopher Gaston Bachelard, who views the metaphorical syntax of
sexual arousal as the inspiration, as it were, for Mans discovery of how to
make fire by friction.4 Theories aside, it can be argued that the infusion
of fire into wood and stone is a sexual and anthropogonic theme in the
logic of myth. What follows is an attempt to present such an argument,
with special reference to the anthropogonic traditions of the Greeks. In
the course of examining the pertinent myths, we shall see that the stroke
of the thunderbolt may be viewed as not only destructive but also procreative. Furthermore, the concept of procreation can presuppose that
of creation itself.5
Frazer 1930.224-225; also 90, 92, 151, 155 (trees) and 106. 131. 187-188 (rocks/
stones).
2Frazer p. 90.

5Cf. Frazer pp. 220-221.


4Bachelard 1949, esp. pp. 45-47.
5Cf. Dworak 1938, esp. p. 1.

181

182

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Two key words in this presentation will be Baltic (Lithuanian)


perkunas and Slavic perunxi, both meaning thunderbolt.6 In examining
the formal and semantic connections between these two words, we shall
discover a pervasive association of the concept of thunderbolt" with
traditional lore about two particular kinds of material that attract the
thunderbolt, that is, wood and stone. We shall further discover that the
very forms of these nouns, perknas and perunxi, are related to the forms
of other nouns that actually designate wood, especially oak wood, and
stonenot to mention still other nouns designating elevated places that
attract the thunderbolt, such as mountains, boulders, or wooded
hilltops. Even further, we shall see the emergence of a neat pattern of
parallelism linking myths about thunderbolts and oaks with myths about
thunderbolts and rocks. Finally, we shall consider another dimension of
this parallelism, that is, in myths about the creation of humankind. Such
myths, as we shall see, are reflected by a Greek proverb that refers to
ancient myths of anthropogony with a distancing attitude of indiffer
ence, as if humans had originated from either oaks or rocks. When
Penelope challenges the disguised Odysseus to reveal his hidden identity
by revealing his lineage (xix 162), she adds the following words:

Odyssey ix 163
For surely you arc not from an oak, as in the old stories, or from a rock.

To begin at the very beginnings is to begin with the oak and the rock,
at least in the logic of the proverb, and it is for this reason, as we shall
see, that the persona of Hesiod, reproaching himself for lingering too
long at the beginning of beginnings in the Theogpny, finally declares,
with impatience:
;
Hesiod

Theogony 35

But why do I have these things about the oak or about the rock?

In the interest of making our own beginning, let us without further delay
proceed to the Baltic and the Slavic evidence.
6 For the difficult task of establishing the etymological links between these words, I cite
the pathfinding work of Ivanov 1958 and Ivanov and Toporov 1970, following Jakobson
1950, 1955; cf. Watkins 1966.35-54, 1970.350, 1974.107. Book-length treatment in Ivanov
and Toporov 1974.

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

183

In Slavic, perunu designates both thunderbolt and thunder-god.7 By


thunder I mean both thunder and lightning, in the spirit of the older
expression thunderstruck" as opposed to the newer struck by light
ning. In the case of the Slavic form perunu, the meaning thunderbolt
is basic in the attested Slavic languages (Russian perun, Czech perun, Pol
ish piorun, and so on), while the meaning thunder-god is residual. The
second meaning is least obscure in the Russian evidence, where the word
perun thunderbolt survives also as one of the names constituting the
native heathen pantheon. The Old Russian Chronicles8 tell of wooden
idols in the image of the god Perun, set up on hills overlooking Kiev and
Novgorod. They also tell how the people of Kiev wept as the Christian
ized Prince Vladimir had the idol of Perun cast down into the Dnepr
River. At Novgorod, too, the god was toppled. And yet, as his idol was
floating downstream in the Volxov River, Perun took revenge: people
believed that he hurled his mace at a bridge, hurting some and frighten
ing the others.9 The Perun figure has survived also in the folklore of
Byelorussia.10 He is Piarun, who lives on mountaintops and smites the
Serpent.11 He even made the first fire ever: it happened accidentally,
when he struck a tree in which the Demon was hiding.12
In the Baltic languages there is a word that seems formally similar to
the Slavic perunu and that likewise means both thunderbolt and
thunder-god. In Baltic languages, unlike Slavic, however, we cannot
immediately arrive at a common Baltic form. In Lithuanian the word is
perknas; in Latvian it is perkns (standard spelling for perkuons). For the
Old Prussian forms we have the testimony of the Elbing Glossary: the
entry percunis is glossed as thunder. Formal problems aside, there are
striking thematic parallelisms between the Baltic and Slavic figures. Like
Slavic Perun, the Latvian Perkns hurls a mace.13 Like the Slavic Perun,
the Baltic Perknas of Lithuanian folklore dwells on lofty mountaintops:
such places are called Perkunkalnis summit of Perknas, and brazen
idols of the god are sure to be there.14 Also, Perknas strikes oak trees,
which have fire stored up inside.15
7Cf. REW s.v. perun.
8The testimonia have been assembled by Gimbutas 1967.741-742.
Cf.Darkevic 1961.91-102.
10Cf. Ivanov and Toporov 1968,1970.
11Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1182.
12Seiiputovski 1930.26 (I no. 268); cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1194.
13Cf. the expression Perkns mgt savu milnu Perkns throws his mace (Ivanov and
Toporov p. 1195). Note that milna mace is related to Old Norse mjpllnir, the word for the
hammer of Thor the thunder-god. Note, too, that Thors mother is Fjprgyn (from *perkuni). On these forms: Ivanov 1958.104.
14Balys 1937.163 nos. 233-236; also p. 149 nos. 4-5. Cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1182.
15 For an attestation of this belief, see the first-person account by the cleric Matthus
Praetorius (late seventeenth century) of his encounter with some Lithuanian woodcutters,.

184

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

The personification of perknas, as we have just seen, is closely associ


ated with the oak tree. Moreover, while the derivative noun perkunjje
means thunderstorm, as P erku n ija it can also designate the name of a
place where a great oak stood; underneath this oak was an idol of
Perknas.16 The diction of Lithuanian folklore frequently yields the
expression Perkuno q zu o la s oak of Perknas,17 which is matched by
Latvian P erkna ozls oak of Perkns.18 From story to story, the stroke of
Perknas either seeks out oak trees or specifically avoids them.19 Either
way, the point remains that there is a thematic link between oaks and the
stroke of Perknas. There even exist accounts of old Lithuanian rituals
involving Perknas and oak trees.20 Finally, Simon Grunaus description
of Old Prussian customs (written in the early sixteenth century) tells ofa
sacred oak with a hollow containing an idol of Perknas.21
Likewise in Slavic lore, Perun is associated with the oak. Besides the
old Russian expression P eru n o v d u b oak of Perun,22 there is the addi
tional evidence of a frequently attested Byelorussian folk theme, with
Piarun violently striking oak trees.23
From both the Baltic and the Slavic evidence, it is clear that the god
of the thunderbolt is associated with rocks as well as oaks. In Lithuanian
folklore, for example, we find instances where Perknas is associated

as reprinted in M annhardt 1936.533-535. For the relative reliability of Praetorius, set


Mannhardt pp. 519-520.
16 Balys 1937.163 no. 246; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1184.
17 Balys p. 163 no. 241; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1184.
18 Smits 1940.1401; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1184.
19 Balys 1937.158 no. 141 and p. 197 no. 802; cf. Ivanov and Toporov pp. 1193-1194.
20 For a detailed account by Matthaus Praetorius, see Mannhardt 1936.539-540 (cf.
Ivanov and Toporov p. 1189). Perknas was venerated with perpetual fires fueled by oak
wood (for documentation, see M annhardt pp. 196, 335, 435, 535, etc.). When Christian
zealots extinguished such perpetual fires, the natives believed that Perknas would freeze
(M annhardt p. 436).
21 M annhardt p. 196; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1187. For a balanced account of
Grunaus basic reliability, see Krollmann 1927.14-17. Without reading Krollmann, we
would be prone to overinterpret the severe judgment of Jaskiewicz 1952.92-93, who was

primarily concerned with the unreliability of a later writer, Jan Lasicki (late sixteenth cen
tury). Krollmann argues cogently the unlikelihood of Grunaus having invented* a Prus
sian system of gods modeled on a Nordic scheme. It strains credulity to imagine that this
wandering beggar-monk (who even spoke Prussian himself) would have created a pastiche
based on Adam of Bremen (Krollmann pp. 15-17). Krollmanns inference, however, that
the Prussian religious practices described by Grunau were borrowed from Nordic culture
(p. 17) is gratuitous. As for Jaskiewicz, I find in his brief discussion of Grunau no facts to
support his contention that Grunaus account of Perknas and the oak is mere phan
tasmagoria (pp. 92-93). For a balanced evaluation of Grunaus reliability, see Puhvel 1974.
22 Ivanov and Toporov pp. 1183-1184.
23 Serzputovski 1930.9 no. 49; cf. also p. 8 nos. 37-48. Cf. also Ivanov and Toporov pp.
1193-1194.

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

185

with striking rocks instead of oaks.24 Also, in a late seventeenth-century


account of a heathen Lithuanian ritual involving Perkunas, the sacral site
features a rock and an oak situated five paces apart25 Similarly, the
Byelorussian Perun (Piarun) goes about smiting not only oaks but also
rocks.26
Obviously, all this thematic evidence makes it tempting to trace the
Baltic and Slavic words for thunder/ thunder-god to a common for
mal source. The task is forbidding, however, as we may see from the
skepticism recorded in the standard etymological dictionary of Russian.27
The received opinion here is that perun has the common Slavic agent
suffix -un and is probably derived from the verb *per- as in Old Church
Slavonic perp/pirati strike.28 While the Slavic perun looks like a deverbative meaning the striker*, the form of Lithuanian perkunas looks like a
denominative. On the basis of such formations as Latin Portunus (from
portnos), derived from the u-stem noun portus, Lithuanian perkunas
has been reconstructed as *perkwnos, derived from *perkwus.2930124Such a
u-stem noun *perkwus is actually attested in Latin quercus oak.90 Even
without the comparative evidence, it seems that perkunas is a denomina
tive. Other attested Lithuanian nouns with the suffix -unas are known to
be derived from u-stem nouns;91 only nouns with the suffix -unas may be
derived from verbs.92
Despite such internal evidence for the derivation of perkunas from
*perkwu-, we find skepticism in the standard etymological dictionary of
Lithuanian," where perkunas is linked with the verb per-ti strike, cog
nate with Old Church Slavonic perp/pirati strike. It is argued that
Lithuanian could have preserved a radical variation of *per- (as in pef-ti)
and *per-kw- (as in perkunas, with extension of the root by *-kw-).94 We
may compare the radical variation of *per- and *per-g- as attested within
the conjugation of an Armenian verb meaning strike, hari (aorist) vs.
24 Balys 1937.159 nos. 155-164; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1194.
25 Mannhardt 1936.539-540.
26 Ivanov and Toporov p. 1193.
27 REW s.v. perun.
28 Also Russian peru/prat', Czech pent/prati, etc.; cf. Lithuanian per-ti strike. For a typi
cal example of the agent-suffix -unu, cf. Russian begun runner from 5qju/ru n \
29 Schulze 1929.287. Cf. also l.atin tribunus from tribus, lacuna from locus, and so on.
30 DELL s.v. For a survey of Germanic cognates meaning oak or fir, see the discussion
of Friedrich 1970.136-137. For the semantic shift from oak to fir, see Friedrich p.
136n30; also Vendryes 1927.314-315 and Gntert 1914.214.
31 Specht 1932.215: e.g. karaliunas prince from kartUius king.
32 Otr?bski 1965.206; the suffix -unas too may be denominative (Otrcbski p. 207), but the
point remains that -unas cannot be deverbative.
33 LEW s.v.
34 LEW S .V .; cf. Meillet 1926.171.

186

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

harkanem (present).55 The form *per-g- also survives in Indie Parjdnya-,


which serves as the Rig-Vedic name for the god of the thunderstorm.56
Also, the internal evidence of Indie suggests that the formation of
Parjdnya- is deverbative.57
In short, the comparadve evidence is ambivalent about the etymology
of Lithuanian perkunas. Forms like Latin Portunus suggest that perkunas is
derived from a noun *perkwu- as in Latin quercus oak. Forms like Slavic
perunu and Indie parjdnya-, on the other hand, imply that the root
*per-kw- of perkunas is a variant of *per-/ *per-g-, meaning strike. The
solution, as Roman Jakobson saw, is that *perkwu- had not always meant
oak.58 Rather, the noun *perkwu- is derived from a verb *per-kwstrike. The oak is named *perkwu-, as in Latin quercus, because it is the
tree consecrated to the god who strikes with the thunderbolt59 The
thematic association of Baltic Perkunas and Slavic Perun with the oak
serves as corroboration.353678*40
The form *perkwu- is also attested in the Old Norse name Fjgrgyn
(feminine), by way of the intermediate form *perkwuni-; the son of
Fjorgyn is Thor the thunder-god (VQluspd 56.10, etc.).41 Considering the
thematic associations of the thunder-god Perknas with mountaintops,
we must also compare the Gothic form fairguni, to be reconstructed as
*perkwunjo- mountain, mountain-range.42 Its form is matched by a
35 Meillet p. 171 and LEW s.v. For the derivative amt thunder, see Liden 1906.88ff.
36 Meillet p. 171 and KEWA s.v.
37 We may note that -dm- is a deverbative formant of abstract nouns and adjectives, such
as iar-dni- malice from sr- destroy and saAs-dni- 'overpowering* from sah- overpower.
For more examples, see Wackemagel and Debrunner 1954.207, where it is pointed out that
abstract nouns in *-eni- are also a productive category in Germanic. (The type -dmbecomes infinitival in Indie, and some nouns in -dni- seem to be formed by way of
infinitives in -dm: see Renou 1937, esp. pp. 73-78.) There are two especially interesting
examples: as-ani- thunderbolt and ar-dni- wood for obtaining fire by friction (on which
see p. 156). In neither case has the respective verb o f these derivatives even survived in
Indie. Sometimes the suffix -dni- is found with the accentuation -ani-, as in ksip-ani- stroke
of the whip' from ksip- hurl and dyot-ani- brightness from dyut- shine*. The point is, the
suffixes -anya- (= -ania-) and -nya- seem to be derivatives of -ani- and -dni- respectively.
(For the derivation of /stems from -stems, cf. Wackemagel and Debrunner pp. 778, 804,
816-817; also Benveniste 1935.73-74.) For examples of the suffix -anya-, we may adduce
nabh-anyd- bursting forth from nabh- burst and abhy-ava-do-nyd- apportioning from abhyava-dhd- apportion; cf. Wackemagel and Debrunner p. 212. In sum, I interpret parj-dnyaas 'striking, the striker, from *perg- strike.
38Jakobson 1955.
"Jakobson 1955. LEW 574 also connects the following words containing the root *per-:
Lithuanian pergas Einbaum, Fischerkahn, Old English /m o l bolt, Latin pergula projec
tion from an edifice. We may perhaps add Czech prkno board. For the semantics, cf.
Trautmann 1906. On Indie parkaii, see KEWA s.v.
40 Here we have the central point of Ivanov and Toporov 1970.
41 Meid 1957.126; Ivanov 1958.105; Gntert 1914.213.
42 Ivanov 1958.104-105, 107; for a discussion of related forms in Germanic, see Feist

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

187

Celtic name transliterated as -.43445 Strabo uses the expression


Hercynian woodlands in referring to the central
mountain-range of Germany (4.6.9 C207; 7.1.3, 5 C290, 292). There is
also a celebrated reference by Caesar to the Hercynia silva (Bellum Galli
cum 6.24.2, 25). The semantic common denominator for the reconstruc
tion *perkwunjo- (and feminine *perkwuni/*perkwuni-) seems to be
wooded mountain'. As in the case of oak trees in particular, we may
suspect that wooded mountains were likewise consecrated to the god of
the thunderbolt. There is also a suggestive morphological parallel, as V.
V. Ivanov saw,44 between *perkwunjo- and *meldhunjo-: this second for
mation survives as Old Norse mjQnir, the name of Thors Hammer.45
Roman Jakobson has argued convincingly for another parallel to the
Celtic and Germanic reflexes of *perkwunjo-, in the Slavic word for
wooded hill, *pergynja from *pergwnj.46 We see reflexes in Old
Church Slavonic pregynja wooded hill and Old Russian peregynja (and
various tabu-deformations) wooded hill, as well as in the Polish and
Ukrainian toponomastic evidence.47 Most important of all, we have it on
record in East Slavic documents that Christian churchmen took pains to
condemn the actual worship of wooded hills.48 We may compare the
Lithuanian toponym Perkunija, designating a spot where a great oak
stood and where an idol of Perknas was venerated.49 Besides the
thematic parallelism between the Baltic and Slavic words, there is a for
mal parallelism as well. Both Baltic perkunija and Slavic *pergynja have
*-un- in the suffix and both feature an extension of the root *perstrike. The important difference is that the radical extension is *-kw- in
Baltic (*per-kw-n-) and *-gw- in Slavic (*per-gw-n-).
In the Old Russian Chronicles there is an interesting Slavic word
closely parallel to the reconstructed *pergynja, namely, perynja, along with
two variants, peryni and perunv, all three are attested in the locadve
1939 S.W . fairguni and fairhrus: I draw attention to the delabializadon of *kw to *k:
*perkwun- to *perkun.
43 Ivanov 1958.104-105.107; Watkins 1966.33-34; Meid 1956.284-285.
44 Ivanov 1958.104.
45 Cf. p. 183nl3. The formal type *perkw-njo- is worth contrasting with the type
*perkwu-no- as in Lithuanian perkututs, where the derivation from *perkwu- is accompanied
by lengthening of the *-u-. The same kind of lengthening, as we have already noted, occurs
in Latin: Port-unus from partus, trilbnus from tribus, and so on. A comparable kind of non
lengthening pattern as in *perkwu-njo- is evident in Indie: drjuna- bright (cf. Greek drgros, g-phos); cf. also the inner-Indic derivative patterns smasrii-- bearded from smdsrubeard, dr-na- sturdy from daru- wood, etc. (cf. Wackemagel and Debrunner
1954.485-486,734; Meid 1956.270,280).
46Jakobson 1955; cf. also Ivanov 1958.107-108, pace Vaillant 1948.
47Jakobson 1955.
48 Mansikka 1922.305; Jakobson 1955.616.
49 Seep. 184.

188

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

expressions na perune, na peryni, na peruni respectively.50 The usage of


these expressions in the chronicles reveals a highly suggestive context:
they refer to a hill overlooking Novgorod, on top of which was a sanctu
ary that harbored, as the chronicles tell us, the idol of Perun himself.51
Archaeologists have actually found this sanctuary (1951): it is four kilo
meters south of Novgorod, situated on top of a hill surrounded by the
Volxov River, its tributary, and a swamp.52
With this much contextual evidence, we can safely follow Roman
Jakobson and V. V. Ivanov in linking the Slavic formations perunu,
perynja/peryn t /pernn t, and *pergynja. I should add that we may abandon
the notion that perunu is a deverbative agent noun. A variation like
perynt/perum strongly suggests the prehistoric existence of a *perynu
matching perunu53 It also suggests, in my opinion, that we are dealing
with denominative rather than deverbative forms, built directly from a ustem noun.54 We may compare the Latvian variation perkns/
perkuons/perkauns thunderbolt.55 The variation perkns/ perkuons in
50 Ivanov 1958.107.
51 Mansikka 1922.65,580; Ivanov p. 107.
52Jakobson 1955.615, Gimbutas 1967.742.
55 Ivanov 1958.106-107. We may compare the variation in the Slavic word for worm
wood, *pdynu/pdunu, as attested in Old Church Slavonic pdyn, Polish pioiyn/ptolun,
Czech pdyn/pdun, and so on. Cf. Buga 1959 [19211.332; cf. also Meid 1956.273-274.
541 reconstruct Slavic -yn/-un as *-nos/ *-unos, on the basis of comparative evidence
from Baltic, especially Latvian. For the clearest example available, I note that the Latvian
u-stem noun xrirsus summit has the variant derivatives virsne and xnrsuone, both likewise
meaning summit* (LDW 4:616). We may compare Lithuanian virfune summit, from
trirsus summit. Such an alternation -tin-/-uon- clearly suggests an earlier *-n-/-un(Endzelin 1923.235, 240; cf. Meid 1956.276 on the type /'; the negative argu
ments of Schmeja 1963.40-41 are based mainly on the relative dearth o f positive evidence
in Greek). Latvian also shows a third variant, virsaune (LDW 4:610-611), which is
significant because inherited *6u has a bivalent reflex in Baltic, au as well as uo (Stang
1966.47-48, 75-76). We see the /uo/au alternation not only in derivatives o f u-stems such
as virsne/virsuone/tnrsaune but also in the actual declension o f both Lithuanian and
Latvian u-stems (Stang pp. 75-76). And it so happens that we find the same /uo/au alter
nation in the attested Latvian variants of the word for thunderbolt, petkuns/ perkuons/
perkauns (LDW 3:208-209); besides these ostems, we also find the joetems pfrkunis/
pfrkuonis/pprkaunis (LDW 3:208-209).
55 See the previous note. O f these three formations, it is perkuons that prevails in the
standard language (spelled periums), largely because agent-nouns in -vans are a productive
category in Latvian (die suffix -uonis is likewise productive in Latvian; cf. Lithuanian -nonis,
which is productive, whereas -nonas, cognate of Latvian -worn, is not). Specht 1932
(240-241,259,264-265, etc.) has demonstrated that the suffix turns o f such agent-nouns is
derived ultimately from *-- (as in Greek tov); the *-n- is clearly attested in older
Lithuanian -uo, the replacement pattern that prevailed in this language is not the ostein
-uonas but the jottem -uonis (unlike Latvian, where -turns and -uonis coexist). Spechts
demonstration, however, need not lead to the inference that Latvian perkuons, as distinct
from perkns, is not an inherited form. It is simply a m atter o f phonological ambiguity in
Baltic (both *u and *6 yield uo), which has led to a morphological reinterpretation. The

T hunder and the Birth of Hum ankind

189

Baltic (Latvian) corresponds to the variation peryni/peruni in Slavic,


which in turn implies a variant *perynu for perun.*56 In sum, we may
reconstruct an underlying noun *peru-/ *pergwu- in Slavic, and *perkwuin Baltic.
The chain of derivation that I have posited for Slavic, verb *per- to
noun *peru- to noun *peruno-, has a close parallel in Hittite: verb tarhto noun tarhu- to noun tarhuna-57 The verb tarh- conquer, overpower,
overcome, comparable in meaning to *per- strike, has a u-stem deriva
tive tarhu-, as attested in the derivative tarhuili- heroic.58 The u-stem
noun is also attested as Tarhu-, the name of the Storm-God, who is head
of the Luvian pantheon.59 Moreover, the name Tarhu- has a derivative,
with the same meaning, shaped Tarhuna--60
The derivation of tarhu- from verb tarh- follows a familiar Hittite pat
tem: we may compare parku- elevated from verb park- lift, huisu- alive
from verb huts- live, and so on.61 As for the derivation of Tarhuna- from
Tarhu-, we may compare the form peruna- rock, derived from perurock;62 both forms are used with the prefixed Sumerogram NA4, which
also designates rock or stone. The declension of Hittite peru- rock,
variant perkuons prevails over perkns because its suffix -turns, which 1 reconstruct as
-unos, now has the same familiar shape as the productive form ant o f agent-nouns, -uons
as derived from *-nos. Let us contrast a situation w here we find n o such in h eren t parallel
ism, as in the case of virsne/ virsuone / virsaune, discussed in the previous note: here the
form that prevails is virsaune, n o t virsuone (for all the forms, see LDW 4:610-611). In con
sidering the displacement o f perkns by perkuons in Latvian, we should note, too, that this
language does not have a productive category o f agent-nouns in -tins. Conversely,
Lithuanian perkunas can prevail over perkuonas because the language has no productive
category of agent-nouns in -uonas (from *-nos); rather, the productive suffixes are -uonis
and -unas. For vestiges o f perkuonas (and xnrsuone) in O ld Lithuanian, see Specht p. 265.
56Just as Latvian perkuons prevails over perkns because o f the productive agent-suffix
-vans (see previous note), so also we may say th at Slavic perun prevails over *perynu
because its suffix -un, which I reconstruct as *-ounos, is shaped like an agent-suffix th at is
productive in Slavic, -unu. In this case, I prefer to reconstruct the deverbative agent-suffix
also as *-6unos, the same suffix th at is derived from u-stem nouns. In o th er words, dever
bative -unu was once denom inative (cf. Specht 1932.268). We may com pare Lithuanian
unas and -uonis, which are still denom inative as well as deverbative, as distinct from -unas,
which is formally marked for an exclusively denom inative category (cf. Specht pp. 240-241;
also Meid 1956.268-270).
57This is not to say th at e.g. *terh2u- can n o t be a verb-formation (cf. Hittite tarhuux,
Indie tarnte, turvati, etc.).
58 Laroche 1958.90. Also Watkins 1990.
59Laroche pp. 91-95; on Tarhuntr an d the thunderbolt, see Laroche p. 95. Cf. Watkins
1974.107. a . also p. 131.
60Laroche pp. 93, 94.
61 Laroche p. 90. As for the vocalism o f tarh-, etc., Kurylowicz 1958.228 observes that
roots ending in -erC tend to generalize the zero-grade in H ittite (-C > -arC, where R=*r, l,
m, n, and C = other consonant).
62Laroche p. 90. Also spelled piruna- an d piru-.

190

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

as we see from dative/locative p e ru n i, reveals an r/n-stem added to the


u-stem.6S Hittite pet-u- rock is cognate with Indie p a r v a n - joint [e.g. of
sacrificial animal], knot [in plant].64 The Indie noun can be explained
as a derivative of the verb-root *per- go to the end point, go over to the
other side, arrive at the other side,65 w ith sp ecia l reference to th e su ccessfu l
p ie rc in g th rou gh or c u ttin g through o f the body s jo in ts in th e con text o f s a c r ific e d

We may compare the Greek verb p e im , which can mean either pierce
when the object is the body of a victim or cross over when the object is
a body of water (as reflected in such derivative nouns as p o m s).67 These
meanings are pertinent to the semantics of the Hittite verb tarh - con
quer, overpower, overcome, from which the name of T arh u - the StormGod is derived: the Indo-European root *terhf underlying this Hittite
verb also carries the meaning cross over as in the Indie ap-tw r- crossing
over the water,68 and this meaning applies also in specific contexts of
immortalization, as in the Greek n e k -ta r d Given the parallelism between
the sense of cross over in the verb-root *terh - and the sense of go to
the end point, go over to the other side, arrive at the other side in the
verb-root *per-, we arrive at a better understanding of the etymology of
Greek E lu sio n , designating both the place where a thunderbolt has
struck and the place of immortalization, Elysium:70 this noun-formation
is derived from -elu th o -, from the conjugation / in the
sense of arrive.71 Also, given the parallelism between the Hittite forms
T a r h u -/T a r h u n a -, designating the Storm-God, and p e r u - / p eru n a -, mean
ing rock, we may be ready to connect Hittite p eru n a - rock with Slavic
p eru n (god of) thunderbolt, just as we have connected Latin quercus
oak with Baltic (Lithuanian) p erk u n a s (god of) thunderbolt. As we
have already seen, rocks a s w ell a s oaks were sacred to th e g o d o f th e th u n d er
2

bolt,72

The cognate of Hittite pern - rock, to repeat, is Indie - joint


[e.g. of sacrificial animal], knot [in plant], derived from the verb-root
per- meaning go to the end point, go over to the other side, arrive at*
** Hoffmann 1975 (1974] .332.336.
64 Hoffmann pp. 332, 336.
65 Bcrgren 1975.62-101, csp. p. 95.
66 Bergren pp. 67-78, csp. pp. 68-69 on RigVeda 1.61.12, where Indra hurls his thunder
bolt at Vrtra in order to sever his joints (noun ), much as the joints of an ox are
severed; cl. also Hoffmann 1975 [1974].332.
67 Cf. DELG 871. Detailed discussion of the semantics in Bergren pp. 95-101.
Seep. 139.
See p. 139. Cf. also p. 156n49on Indie tomni-in the sense o f ship.
70 Seep. 140.
71 On the level of form, this derivation of Elusion is corroborated by DELG 411; my
interpretation of the meaning, however, differs from that of DEI.G.
72 See pp. 184ff.

T hunder and the Birth of Humankind


the other side,

191

w ith sp e c ia l reference to th e su ccessfu l p ie rc in g th rou gh o r cut

Given the implica


tion of sacred violence in this meaning, we may be justified in identifying
this verb-root *per- with the verb-root *per- that we have been defining
up to now simply as strike, attested in the Baltic and the Slavic verbs
that yield the words for (god of) thunderbolt in these languages.
Although I know of no verb shaped *per- in Hittite, we may still cite p a rh chase, drive, make (a horse) gallop. Just as tarh - conquer, overpower,
overcome is traced back to the root *terh2-, so also p a rk - might stem
from *perh2-, with radical extension *-h2- added to the *per- which
hypothetically survives as p ern - rock. The attested meanings of p a rh might be secondary to a primary meaning strike; we may compare the
semantics of Lithuanian g in -ti chase, drive (cattle) to pasture,73 cognate
with Indie h d n ti strike, kill, Hittite k w en zi (same meaning), and so on.
In further support of the derivation of Hittite p eru n a - from a verb-root
*per- strike, we may consider the Hittite epithet k u n k u n u zzi- (with
prefixed Sumerogram NA4 designating rock or stone) as applied to
the megalithic m onster Ullikummi, who was himself born of a huge
piruna- (= peru n a -) rock.74 The form k u n k u n u zzi- is an instrument-noun
derived from the verb k w e n zi strike, kill.75 In the Indie R ig-V eda the cog
nate verb h d n ti strike, kill regularly denotes the action of the thunder
bolt.76 For the reduplication in k u n -k u n -u zzi-, we may compare a South
Slavic form related to p e ru n , p er-per-u n a, which is a name for a virgin
chosen to dance for rain:77 nude and draped with flowers she whirls
ecstatically in the middle of a ring, invoking in song the sky or Elijah to
moisten and fructify the earth .78 To repeat: k u n -k u n -u zzi- is an
instrument-noun;79 accordingly, we might have expected the word to
designate a weaponmaybe even a projectile at that. Instead, it desig
nates an animated boulder that is destined to be smitten by the StormGod.80
There is a com parable ambiguity in Old Norse: h a m a rr may mean
rock, boulder, cliff* as well as ham m er; the form er meaning is attested
ting through o f the body s jo in ts in th e con text o f sacrifice.

78Cf. also the derivative nakti-gonis night-herder of horses: LEW 152.


74For the Ullikummi texts, see G terbock 1952, esp. pp. 37,146-147.
75Ivanov 1958.110, Ivanov an d Toporov 1970.1196-1197.
76Grassmann 1873 s.v. Ann-, the attestations labeled 1."
77Jakobson 1955.616, with a list o f tabu-variants.
78Jakobson 1950.1026.
79For another example o f a H ittite instrum ent-noun in -uzzi-: ishuzzi- belt, vs. verb tsAijo- 'bind'.
80See Gterbock 1952.6. The Storm-God is written with the Sumerogram dU, but the
Ullikummi texts (as well as others) reveal the Hittite ending -unas\ cf. Gterbock p. 4nl4.
The full form is probably Tarhunas (Laroche 1958.94-95).

192

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

in toponyms like Hammerfest. Conversely, Lithuanian akmuo rock, ston^


is cognate with Greek dkmn, which m eans n o t ham m er but anvil,
complicate matters further, there are traces o f the meaning thunder
bolt in the usage of dkmn in Hom eric and Hesiodic diction.81 We even
hear of a god Akmon, father o f Ouranos Sky (Aleman PMG 61). Also, in
a sixteenth-century account o f pagan Lithuanian practices, there is a god
(mentioned alongside Perknas himself) who is nam ed Akmo and who is
described as saxum grandius.8283Amidst all this complicated evidence, we
must keep in mind the basic ambiguity, namely, that the word for the
thunder-weapon is being applied to the thunder-target itself; also, that
the meaning may become simplified to the extent of designating merely
the weapon or the target, without any overt message about the thunder
stroke itself.
As further illustration o f the weapon /ta rg e t ambiguity, we may con
sider the Indie noun dsman-, cognate o f Greek dkmn and Lithuanian
akmu. This word is used in the Rig-Veda to designate the weapon of
Indra (2.30.5, 4.22.1, 7.104.19). The activities of Indra, this national
war-god, are as a rule described in a specialized language that is so highly
stylized that it tends to blur the naturalistic aspects of his background as
thunder-god, more visible in his counterpart Parjanya-88 Nevertheless,
the basic naturalistic attributes o f Indra persist in the Rig-Veda he gives
rain (4.26.2, etc.), lightning comes from him (2.13.7), he is likened to a
thundering cloud-driver (6.44.12), and he is specifically described as
equal to Parjanya at raindm e (8.6.1). Indras weapon is predominantly
called the vdjra-, which, in keeping with the stylistic specialization of his
descriptions, has become Indras personal distinguishing feature in the
diction of the Rig-Veda. Like its owner, however, the vdjra-, too, has
natural attributes that persist: it thunders (1.100.13) and roars (2.11.10).
With this vdjra- of his, Indra conventionally strikes boulders and thereby
releases water or lighta them e so com m on that any listing of the attes
tations would be superfluous.84 Suffice it to note here that one of the
words for boulder* in the Rig-Veda is dsman- (1.130.3, etc.), the same
word that can also designate Indras weapon (again, 2.30.5, etc.).85
81 Whitman 1970, esp. pp. 39-40.
82 Rostowskis history of the Jesuit Order in Lithuania (1583): see Mannhardt 1936.435
and Reichelt 1913.26. On the related subject of Iuppiter Lapis, see Schwenck 1859.393-394.
Cf. also the Laconian cult stone known as Zeus Kappotds (Pausanias 3.22.1).
83 On this figure, see p. 186. For a balanced discussion of the naturalism surrounding
the Parjanya- figure, see Lommel 1939.38-44. For a contrast of the natural
istic/ non naturalistic descriptions of Parjanya/Indra, see Oldenberg 1917.137. The rela
tive dearth of naturalism in descriptions of Indra results from intense stylistic elaboration
and evolution, not shared by the far less developed Parjanya figure.
84 For a survey, see Reichelt 1913.34-37.
85 In Rig-Veda 2.12.3, Indra brings forth fire dim anor an tdr between two rocks. Ivanov

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

193

In addidon, we should consider a far more common word for


boulder in the Rig-Veda, a word that is actually derived from pdrvan-, the
Indie cognate of Hitdte pern- rock.*86 The word in quesdon is pdrvataboulder. The pdrvata- that Indra strikes with his vdjra- is often a meta
phorical substitute for cloud.87 In the diction of the Rig-Veda, the
description of streams that burst forth from a smashed boulder is con
ventionally made parallel to the description of rain flowing from
clouds.88 In the description of rain, the expression a .. .divo brhatdh from
the high Heaven is parallel to pdrvatdd. . .a from the Boulder
(5.43.11).89 Indra conventionally smites (verb hdntt) the Serpent on the
pdrvata- (1.32.1, etc.), which in such contexts is traditionally rendered as
mountain.90 In fact, pdrvata- is frequently in apposition to the noun girimountain (1.37.7, etc.). Alternatively, it is the Demon called Vrtra
whom Indra smites (verb hdntt) on the pdrvatain the process, Indra is
also described as smashing the pdrvata- directly and thus bringing water
(1.32.1,1.57.6).91
The mighty Indra not only smashes the pdrvata-. at times he is actually
likened to it, as in the expression
sd pdrvato dharunesu deyutah
Rig-Veda 1.52.2

like a

pdrvata-, u n sh a k a b le

in his fortifications

There is also a personified Parvata, who is Indias alter ego (Rig-Veda


1.32.6, etc.) or his antagonist (8.3.19). Finally, pdrvata- may refer to
Indras weapon itself:
and Toporov 1970.1195-1196 compare the Byelorussian theme where Perun (Piarun) rubs
two gigantic millstones together, thus producing thunder and lightning.
86 See pp. 189f.
87 See again Lommel 1939.42-43. In a few passages, asman- allows the interpretation
sky (e.g. Rig-Veda 7.88.2; but see Geldner 1951 2:259 and Kuiper 1964.111n80). Reichelt
1913 has argued that dsman- could be used with the meaning sky as well as stone because
the sky was thought to have a stone vault once upon a time. We may compare especially
Avestan asan-/asman- rock, stone, sky (Bartholomae 1904.207-208). For typological paral
lels from Africa, see Baumann 1936.146-147. Although Reichelts presentation is per
suasive, there is another way to explain the meaning sky. If rock equals cloud by way of
metaphor, the notion o f cloud could easily evolve into sky. We may compare Hittite
nepis sky and Slavic nebo sky vs. Indie ndbhas cloud and Greek nephos cloud; cf. also
Middle English sky cloud or sky.
88 For Slavic parallels: Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1193. For typological parallels in Afri
can myth and ritual: H ocart 1936.56.
89 Lommel 1939.42-43.
90 See Geldner 1951 1:36, etc.
91 See Benveniste and Renou 1934.147nl.

194

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

abhijahi raksdsah pdrvatena


Rig-Veda 7.104.19

smite [verb

ban-]

the demons with your p d r v a ta -92

As Louis Renou remarks in his study (with Emile Benveniste) of Vrtra


and Vrtrahan in the Rig-Veda, there is a curious fact about the attributes
proper to Indra the Vrtrahan or Vrtra-killer: these same attributes are
also proper to his arch-antagonist, Vrtra.93 I would add, from a distinct
set of myths, the case of pdrvata-, a word that stands for either Indras tar
get (rock, boulder, m ountain) or his weapon,94 and which is also suitable
for comparison with the very likeness of the fulminating Almighty in the
myths of the Indie peoples.95
No survey of forms related to Baltic (Lithuanian) perkunas and Slavic
perun can be definitive without mention of the Greek form keraunos,
which likewise designates not only the thunderbolt but also the god of
the thunderbolt. At Mantineia in ancient Arcadia, for example, Keraunos
was the epithet of Zeus himself (TG V 2.288). From not only the func
tional but also the formal point of view, it has been observed, keraunos
seems parallel to Slavic perun,96 One explanation that has been offered
is to reconstruct perun as *peraunos, to which keraunos would
correspond as a tabu rhyme-word of the type Donnerledder for Don
nerwetter.97 According to this scheme, keraunos consists of root *ker- as in
keraiz destroy, ravage plus the suffix *-aunos, which is patterned to
rhyme with the *-aunos of *per-aunos;98 the earlier suffixal pattem, the
argum ent goes, is *ker-u- as in Indie sdru- missile, arrow.99
I see at least two disadvantages to this explanation. First, the recon
struction *au in *per-aunos is puzzling from the standpoint of IndoEuropean morphology. Second, we can account for the *au of keraunos
92 In th e sam e stanza, In d ra s w eapon is called dsman-: see Reichelt 1913.44-45. Cf. also
Rig-Veda 2.30.5, 4.22.1. O n the G erm anic th em e o f th e w hetstone as a symbol of authority,
see M itchell 1985.
93 Benveniste a n d R enou 1934.138.
94 F or Slavic parallels, see Ivanov an d T o p o ro v 1970.1193-1195.
95 Ivanov 1958.110 adduces th e n am e o f th e A natolian deity Ptrtoor (on whom see Otten
1951), deriving it from *pery-o-. We may n o te too th e H ittite collocation hehir pi-ir-m(cf.
G oetze 1954.356n54), with th e he-kur p rece d ed by th e S um erogram NA4, which designates
ro ck o r sto n e , an d with pt-ir-wa o n ce p rece d ed by th e Sum erogram d; the noun htkur
m eans sum m it, m o u n ta in .
96 G n te rt 1914.215-216.
97 G n te rt pp. 215-216, 221.
98 G n tert p. 216. O u tsid e o f keraunos, we fin d n o instance o f suffixal -aunos in Greek.
T h e w ord puraunos (Pollux 6.88, 10.104) m ust be a c o m p o u n d form ed with the verb aui
(o n this w ord see Borthwick 1969).
99 G n te rt p. 216.

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

195

more easily in terms of the Greek language itself. The noun k era u n o s
may be formed from the base *keray- as attested in the Homeric verb
keraiz destroy, ravage.100 The base *keray- (from *kerh2-y-) contains
the root *kerh2-,101 clearly visible in the Indie verb s m a ti shatter (from
*kr-n-eh2-ti).102 In R ig -V ed a 3.30.17, this verb actually denotes the action
of Indras bolt against his adversaries, described in metaphorical
language that pictures them as trees rather than men. Finally, we may
note the apparent formal parallelism between Greek k era u n o s (from
*kerh2-y-) and Hittite ta rh u n a - (from *terh2-y-).
Even if kerau n os may not be formally connected with Baltic p e rk u n a s
and Slavic p eru n , perhaps terp ik era u n o s can. Like Homeric a rg ik era u n o s
he whose thunderbolt shines {Ilia d . XX 16, XXII 178), terpikerau n os too
serves exclusively as an epithet of Zeus himself (VIII 2, XII 252, etc.). In
fact, the two epithets are formulaic variants. We may note, too, the syn
chronic morphological parallelism between terpi- and argi- (from *h ergi-;
cf. Hittite h arki- bright). If we set up a reconstruction *kwerpi- for terpi-,
then we may recover an earlier *perkwi- by way of metathesis.103 If
argikeraunos means he whose bolt shines, perhaps terpikerau n os means
he whose bolt strikes.104
The time has come to ask why oaks and rocks should be singled out
for a sacral affinity with the thunderbolt to such an extent that their
designations are interchangeable in various Indo-European languages.
From our own secular standpoint, it is obvious that rocks, boulders,
trees, hills, or mountains are targets of lightning by virtue of their eleva
tion or prominence. But there are other factors as well in attracting the
stroke of lightning. I would be out of my held in attempting a strictly
scientihc discussion about these other factors, but they can be in any
case easily intuited even by the unscientific mind. For example, it is an
observable fact that different kinds of trees have significantly different
degrees of susceptibility to being struck by lightning. In a quaint experi
ment conducted by the Lippe-Detmoldsche Forstverwaltung over the
years 1879 to 1890, the following statistics emerge for the susceptibility,
2

100DELG 519. From the evidence o f such pairs as dato (from *dayj) vs. daizo, we may
expect an earlier form *kerayi: cf. GEW 822.
For reflexes of *h?y- as au in Greek roots, cf. both GEW and DELG s.v. kato (cf. also
the discussion of Schmeja 1963.29-32).
102See KEWA s.v. srruUi.
108 Cf. artokopos baker from *artokwopos, by metathesis from *artopok*os (on which see
DELG 118).
104 Alternatively, terpikeraunos may be explained as the reflex of an expressive reduplica
tion *kwerpi-ker(p)aunos, with dissimilation of *kw. . .*kw to *kw. . .k, from an earlier form
*kwer(p)aunos, which in turn would be a tabu-metathesis of *per(kw)aunos (cf. Watkins
1970.350).

196

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

in a given forest, of certain species of tree to lightning strikes:


% of all trees in forest
oak
beech
spruce
fir

11%

70%
13%
6%

number of lightning strikes


56
0
3 or 4
20 or 21

We may observe especially the dramatic contrast between oaks and


beechesa contrast that was already observed ages earlier through the
medium of folklore. In Nordic mythology, for example, Thor the
thunder-god smites the giants when they hide under an oak, but he has
no power over them when they hide under a beech.105
In the logic of myth there is an inference built into the known attrac
tion of oaks to the thunderbolt. There must have been something intrin
sic in oak trees that is like the thunderbolt and that therefore attracts it.
Also, rocks must have some kindred quality. This quality, I suggest, is
potential fire. The Lithuanian thunder-god Perknas, for instance, was
believed to strike oak trees that have fire stored up inside.106 Or again,
the prime material for the heathen German Notfeuer; equivalent of
English u/illre, which may be produced only by friction, was oak wood.107
As for rocks, we may consider again the Byelorussian tradition that pic
tures Piarun (Perun) rubbing two gigantic millstones together, thus pro
ducing thunder and lightning.106109Indra too brings forth fire dimanor
antdr between two rocks (Rig-Veda 2.12.3).109 In sum, those earthbound
things that we use to kindle fire and that also attract the thunderbolt
must tell us something, by dint of their celestial affinity, about how the
fire of the thunderbolt comes about. Conversely, the fact that we can
rub fire out of wood and rock suggests that these materials were once
infused, perhaps even impregnated, with the stroke of some thunder
bolt.110
As we shall now see, the infusion of thunder-fire into wood and stone
is a sexual and anthropogonic theme. Let us begin with instances of
overtly creative themes associated with the thunderbolt In Indie
105 Grimm 1878 3:64. For a survey of connections between the oak and Thor (as well as
other Germanic equivalents), see Wagler 1891 2:4346.
106 Seep. 183.
107 Kuhn 1886, with a discussion of the evidence collected byj. Grimm.
108 See pp. 192-193n85; Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1195-1196.
109 Ivanov and Toporov pp. 1195-1196.
110 In the case of wood, we have just noted a pattern of preference for oak rood as the
sacral material for rubbing fire, a pattern that can be correlated with the observably
stronger attraction of oak trees to lightning.

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

197

mythology, for example, Indras vdjra-, his stylized thunderbolt, is not


only destructive but also procreative.111 The Iranian cognate, vazra-,
forms a derivative vazraka-, which means endowed with generative
power in Old Persian.112 The radical *yeg- of vdjra-/vazra- recurs in the
Rig-Vedic word vdja- generative power residing in vegetation, cattle,
etc..113 It also recurs in Latin uige thrive and uege quicken,
arouse.114 We may note in this connection the Old Norse lore about
Thors Hammer, which hallows the laps of brides and has the power of
bringing his dead goats back to life.115 Or we may note a Lithuanian
belief, reported by the cleric Matthaus Praetorius (late seventeenth cen
tury), that lightning could beget human children in the vicinity where it
strikes.116 Or again, if lightning strikes in the daytime as a child is being
bom, he will thrive; if it strikes at night, the child will die.117 If a man is
struck down in a thunderstorm that is heading west, he dies as a favorite
of God; if the thunderstorm was heading east, he has died on account of
his sins.118 Within the framework of this presentation, however, 1 cannot
do justice to the vast subject of the thunderbolts destructive/creative
ambivalence in Indo-European lore.119 My main purpose instead is to
explore specifically the Indo-European traditions concerning the associa
tion of the thunderbolt with trees and rocks, and how the action of a
thunderstroke on these materials was believed to be sacral and, more
than that, creative.
A belief in the creative and even anthropogonic powers of trees or
rocks is indirectly attested in a Greek proverb: surely you or I or anyone else
today, the saying has it, utere not created eitherfrom oaks or from rocks (e.g.
1,1 Survey of relevant passages in Gonda 1954.32-55, esp. pp. 36-37.
112 Lieben 1962.127, who also refutes the reinterpretation as vazarka- (e.g. Bartholomae
1904.1389-1390).
1,3 Gonda 954.43; Lieben p. 145. Otherwise Watkins 1986.325 and 327, with the refer
ences at nlO.
114 Gonda pp. 43ff. For the vocalisms uig-/ueg-, see Watkins 1973a.
115 Davidson 1965.11-14.
116 Reprinted in M annhardt 1936.538.
117 M annhardt p. 538.
118 M annhardt p. 5.38.
119 More on this subject in Gonda 1954.36-37. Also, we may note that the derivation of
neuter sdrira- body* from the root *kerh2- of srnati shatter' is accepted as plausible in
KEWA s.v. sdrira- (on the associations of the verb im ati shatter' with the thunderbolt at
RigVtda 3.30.17, see p. 195). We may compare the etymological explanation of I-atin
corpus as if derived, albeit indirectly, from the root per-k*- (see Vendryes 1927.315). It
may be possible to link the verb rrrujtj not only with idrira- body but also with sdru- mis
sile, arrow (on which see p. 194), a word used for comparisons with the thunderbolt in the
Rig-Veda (1.172.2, etc.). Perhaps also with sard- reed and sdtus- ashes' (cf. KEWA s.v.). In
view of the latter meaning, ashes', it may be pertinent to cite the reflex of the root *perkwin Lithuanian pirksnys glowing ashes' (cf. LEW s.v. pirksnis) and possibly also in Old Irish
rictus 'glowing coals, live em ber.

198

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Plato Apology 34d, Republic 544d; Plutarch Consolation to his VW/i608c; Philostratus Images 2.3.1). By implication, as we shall see, earlier humans
had just such origins.
Let us return to our starting point, the passage in the Odyssey where
Penelope challenges the disguised Odysseus to reveal his hidden identity
by revealing his lineage (xix 162). She adds the following words:
yap *
Odyssey ix

163

For surely you are not from an oak, as in the old stories, or from a rock.

The context of Penelopes utterance reveals a detached attitude, on her


own part, toward an old myth. The narrative that frames Penelopes
words is itself merely alluding to a theme, without going into details that
seem inappropriate to an epic situation. The epithet palaiphatos spoken
of a long time ago, which may be interpreted as referring to both oak
and rock, is a self-conscious poetic allusion to a genre other than epic.
Elsewhere in Homeric diction, the adjective palaiphato- is used exclusively
to describe thesphata, which may be defined as words of a mantis [seer]
or of one who functions as a mantis.,2
In Hesiodic poetry as well, there is a fastidious attitude toward treating
the theme of oaks and rocks with any references that would go beyond
mere allusion. There is a passage in the Theogony (31-34) where the
poet has just told how the Muses infused in him the power to sing about120
120 See Odyssey ix 507, xiii 172. For the tnantic connotations of ihhphata, see especially ix
507, xi 151. In connection with the mantic concept, we may note the form of the placename, Perkoti, as attested at Iliad II 835. A maniis 'seer1 by the name of Mirops is identified
as Perkosios "from Perkote at Iliad II 831-832 ( , | ffSee
). The form Perkote may perhaps be reconstructed as *perko[u]ta (for the pho
nology, cf. Vine 1982.42-43 on Greek plater), to be derived from an earlier u-stem noun
*perku- (from *perkwu-) oak*. We may note too that meropes is a common Homeric
epithet for dnthropoi "humans* (cf. Koller 1968) and that the sons of Mirops Perkosios are
said to hold sway over a place called Ptieia, at Iliad II 829. The latter name is surely
derived from the noun pitus pine*. We may perhaps compare the semantic oscillation
between oak* and *fir', on which see p. 185n30. What we see in these associations are
perhaps traces of an ancient local myth that equated the First Man with the First Mdns
Seer*. On the anthropogonic theme of First Man as First Sacrificer, cf. pp. 110 and follow
ing. Given the anthropogonic themes inherent in the possible etymology of dnthropos as
he who has the looks of embers (p. 151n30), we may consider the possible etymology of
mirops as he who has glowing looks*; cf. Merope as the name of a star at Hesiod F 169.3 MW.
I suggest that , the name of another star mentioned in Hesiod F 169.3, be emended to
- Maira, from root *mer- as in marmairo glow, flash*; cf. marili 'embers of char
coal*. The proposed explanation of mirops as 'he who has glowing looks' may be pertinent
to the discussion of Indie mdrya- at p. 250.

Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

199

past and future things, and about the origins of the gods; also, to start
and end the song by singing of the Muses themselves. The poet then
breaks off with these words:
;
Hesiod

Theogony 35

But why do I have these things about the oak or about the rock?

With this utterance, the narration is pausing to take a self-conscious look


at the point that has been reached so far in the composition of the Theo
gony. In the next verse, the break is followed up with
let us start with the Muses', the same expression that had inaugurated
the Theogony at verse 1. Thus the narration has come full circle from
Theogony 1 to 36, and Hesiod has to make a fresh start on the same lines
as before.121 Verse 35 actually anticipates that Hesiod is about to make
this fresh start with verses 36 and following. For Hesiod to ask in verse
35 why he has these things about [= going around]122 the oak or about
the rock is the equivalent of asking why he has lingered at the begin
ning of beginnings. Why am I still going around, as it were, the prover
bial oak or rock? Let me proceed at last by starting out again!
Finally, we may consider the passage in Iliad XXII where Hektor is
deliberating whether he should throw himself at the mercy of Achilles.
He then decides against taking this course of action, saying to himself:
;
Iliad X X II122

But why do I have these things to talk about with my spirit [ thiimos]?

Hektor recognizes that Achilles will be merciless and will surely kill him
(XXII 123-125). At this point, Hektor expresses his loss of hope in
terms of the proverb:
*

*** West 1966.170.


123 West . 169 argues that + accusative regularly conveys a positional ('around')
rather than a conceptual ('about') sense in early poetic diction. Perhaps such a formula
tion is too restrictive: the second sense can be a metaphorical derivative of the first.

200

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual


Iliad X X II126-127
It is by now impossible to converse with him, starting from the oak or from
the rock.125
In other words, it is no use to begin at the beginning with Achilles.
There is no more time to make a fresh start of things.
In these three poetic contexts the proverbial oak or rock connotes
not only temporal but also cultural remoteness. In all three instances
elaboration on the theme is studiously avoided as if it were inappropri
ate, perhaps even too primitive. The theme is indeed primitive, in the
sense that we can find it commonly attested in the widest spectrum of
societies. In the mythmaking traditions of many peoples of the world, it
is a recurrent theme that humankind originated from trees or rocks.124A
comparable theme can be reconstructed in the traditions of IndoEuropean languages as well.125 From the Germanic evidence, we may
note in particular the following reflexes of the root *perkw-: Old Norse
Jjqt life; Old English feorh life, soul and firas men; and so on.126From
the Celtic, there are such examples as the Old Irish name Macc Daro son
of oak, Macc Cairthin (also the Ogam genitive Maqi Cairatini) son of
rowan-tree, Macc Ibair son of yew, and so on.127 There is also a wealth
of further evidence, such as the testimony of Lithuanian folk songs.128
Instead of going further with illustrations, however, I simply return to
the central point to be made. We have observed an ambivalence in the
application of Indo-European *per(kw)u- to oaks in some languages
125 What follows at Iliad XXII 127-128 is a description of sweet-talk between unmarried
lovers, as if such a pair would take their conversation all the way back to the oak and the
rock.
124There is a multitude of African examples collected by Baumann 19S6.224-2S5 (trees),
219-220 (rocks). For a survey of European examples, cf. Vade 1977. For traces in Semitic
myth: Dirlmeier 1955.25-26. For a convenient bibliography on the general theme of Petra
Genitrix, see Eliade 1962.208.
125 Specht 1944. Cf. also Lincoln 1986.188n29, with emphasis on parallelisms between
cosmogonic and sociogonic themes, especially in Germanic traditions.
126 See also Vendryes 1927.
127 Cf. Loth 1920.122.
128 Cf. Meulen 1907.55-72,121-169. For a useful statement on tree animism, see esp. his
p. 127. For a discussion of myths where humankind originates from the ash tree, see Shan
non 1975.44-48,57, 70. Shannons book shows convincingly that such myths are linked to
the theme of Achilles ash spear in the Iliad. He also points out that, in the Hesiodic Wotfe
and Days, it is the gods in general who create the first and second generations of human
kind (109-110,127-128), but it is Zeus in particular who creates the third generation, and
this third creation emerges specifically out of ash trees (143-145). Such an association of
Zeus himself with the process of creation out of ash trees is significant in view of his
epithets keraurws, terpikemunas, and argikeraunos, as discussed at pp. 194-195.

....rn,mu,k...

...... .

, ,i0 - ) and to rocks in o'h (Hiltite

201

T1.

< % ' we " " * * " ma,<:h by the them atic amlv*
i l e t c e n t ancient C reek p ro v erb allu d in g
,hc m y U ^ m
the
S e a te d
aks or fro m r o c k ^ w hich y h h" a , lkind
L e theme th at resolves these two cases o f , . i
, ,hc lw'> The
el
e stin
g g .>

< * creaV' aCtio" f 'h' ' n d o d C l d T * ' a"> 4


name is

form ed from
th e derivatives o f
wh'
Pe r (k )u- ir, Baltic
'(Prunas) and Slavic (P m m )

0L

CHAPTER 8

Sema and Noesis: The Heros Tomb


and the Reading of
Symbols in Homer and Hesiod

The word semioticand semantic, for that mattermay be perceived


in a new light if we look again at its Greek origins. The basic form in
Greek is sema sign, a neuter action-noun built on a root-verb that is no
longer attested in the language. There is a cognate of Greek sema in the
Indie branch of the Indo-European linguistic family. The form is dhyama
thought, a neuter action-noun, attested only in the late Indie lexico
graphical tradition.1This poorly attested noun is built on a root-verb that
is well attested in early Indie. The root is dhya- think* (variant of dhithink). Even though the morphological relationship of dhyd- and
dhyama is transparent in Indie, and even though Indie dhyama and Greek
sbna would have to be considered cognates on the basis of their parallel
ism on the level of morphology, students of language are troubled by the
apparent lack of parallelism on the level of semantics: how could the
meaning sign of Greek sema be connected with the meaning thought*
of Indie dhyama?'
This presentation is an attempt to show that the semantics of sema are
indeed connected with the semantics of thinking. The overall approach
will emulate that of Emile Benvenistes Vocabulaire des institutions indoeuropeennes,3 in that the given word will be examined not only in context
but also specifically in the contexts of its behavior within the formulaic
systems of archaic Greek poetic diction.4 What will emerge is that the key
K EW A ^IU .
2Sec DELG 998.
*Cf. esp. Benveniste 1969 2:58.
4For an attempt to outline this methodology: N 1979a.l-l 1.

202

Sema and Noesis

203

to understanding sema as a word connected with the semantics of think


ing is to be found in its working relationship with another word
connected with mental activity, namely, the noun noos mind, sense, per
ception, along with its derivative verb noe perceive, take note, think,
think through (whence the derivative noun noesisand the second part
of the tide for this presentation). In order to grasp the semantic range
of this difficult word noos and its derivatives, it will be necessary to con
sider also its etymology, as explored in a seminal work by Douglas Frame,
who traces it back to an Indo-European root *nes- meaning something
like return to light and life.5 Ultimately, then, the etymology of both
sema and noos will shed light on the working relationship of these words
as reflected in poetic diction. And this working relationship will in turn,
it is hoped, shed light on Greek concepts of cognition.6
It seems easiest to begin with illustrations of sema as the key to a
specific aspect of cognition, namely, recognition. In particular, Homeric
diction deploys sema as the conventional word for the signs that lead to
the recognition of Odysseus by his phtloi, those who are near and dear
to him.7 Thus, for example, the scar of the disguised Odysseus is
specified by him as a sema for his old nurse Eurykleia (Odyssey xxiii 73),
for his loyal herdsmen Eumaios and Philoitios (xxi 217), and for his
aged father Laertes (xxiv 329). An appropriate word for the recogni
tion of this sema is the verb anagignosko ( xxiv 329, in the case
of Laertes). The same verb recurs in the context of Penelopes recog
nizing ( xxiii 206) the semata (plural, same line) specified by
the disguised Odysseus as the clothes given to the real Odysseus by
Penelope herself (that the clothes are the sema is confirmed at xix
255-257).
In all these instances the narrative features the recognition of the
sema sign as the crucial prerequisite for the recognition of Odysseus
himself.8 Moreover, the recognition of the sema implicitly requires an act
of interpretation. For example, there is the sema sent by Zeus to the
5 Frame 1978; cf. pp. 92ff. and 126 above. Also Svenbro 1988a.31n79.
6 Cf. Svenbro 1988a, esp. p. 53.
7 On the translation of philos as near and dear, cf. Jones 1962.57-58, commenting on
Aristotle's definition of anagnorisis 'recognition' (Poetics 1452a30-32) as a shift from
ignorance to knowledge, which matches a shift to philid nearness and dearness (or to its
opposite). Schwanz 1982 argues that philos is derived from locative phi, cognate of English
by in the sense of near*; such a notion of nearness or closeness, if indeed it is built into the
word philos, can be connected with the concept of an ascending scale of affection, which
is a mode o f self-identification discussed at N 1979a. 103-113.
8 In other instances the narrative may omit the intermediate stage of recognizing the
sema before recognizing the person: thus at iv 250 Helen (verb anagignosko) *recog
nized' Odysseus (direct object) when he slipped into Troy in disguise. It seems no accident
that this particular stretch of narrative is highly compressed.

204

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Achaeam, as reported in Iliad II (308): the event of a snakes devouring


eight nestlings and their mother (II 308-319) requires the mantic
interpretation of Kalkhas the mantis seer, who recognizes it as a portent
of Troys impending destruction (II 320-332). Or again, there are all
the Homeric instances of lightning sent by Zeus as a sema (II 353, IX
236, XIII 244, xxi 413, etc.)one might say as a cod* bearing distinct mes
sages that are to be interpreted in context by both the witnesses and the
narrative itself.
The word that conveys this basic faculty of recognition and interpreta
tion is noos. As the Trojan hero Polydamas says to Hektor . . .
,
*
.
,
, ,

, ,
, .

Iliad XIII 726-735

Hektor, there is no way you can be helped9 to heed persuasive words.


Just because the god granted that you excel in deeds of war
you wish also to excel in planning [boule\ by knowing more than others.10
But there is no way you can get everything all to yourself.
The god grants that one man excel in deeds of war
and another in dancing and another in playing the lyre and singing.
And for yet another man, far-seeing Zeus places noos in his breast,
a genuine11one; and many men benefit from such a man,
and he saves many of them, and he himself has the greatest powers of
9 On the semantics of amekhanos irremediable* and the pertinence of this epithet to the
present context, see Martin 1983.18.
10 Hektor not only yearns to excel in boute planning: he is formally a paragon of mitis
artifice, stratagem', even earning the epithet equal to Zeus in metis' (VII 47, XI 200). This
quality, however, ultimately brings him into conflict with Athena, the goddess of metis
incarnate. Hektor even yearns to have the same time honor as Athena and Apollo them
selves (cf. VIII 538-541, XIII 825-828), and his mortality is thereby underscored as he falb
victim to death precisely because his metis had in the end gone bad ( XVIII
312): Athena herself takes away his senses (XVIII 311). See N 1979a. 144-147, where it is
also argued that the excellence of a hero in a given pursuit is precisely what draws him into
a forcefield of antagonism with a corresponding god. The excellence of Polydamas in the
realm of planning and stratagem (in this passage as also at XVIII 251-252) is not central: it
simply highlights, by way of contrast, Hektors ultimate failure as he pursues excellence in
this very realm.
11 On the semantics of esthlor. Watkins 1972, 1982b.

Serna and Noesis

205

recognition [verb anazignosko] .


But I will tell you what seems best to me.

It is noos, then, that enables one to recognize (verb ana-gignosko).12*


To come back to the clothes of Odysseus as a sema for recognition
(xix 250): the narrative suggests that, in order for the clothes to be a
sema, Odysseus himself has to notice them as such:
...
Odyssey xix 252

. . . and I noticed [verb now] the tunic . . .

Odysseus here is speaking in a disguised persona as he calls attention to


the tunic. In his false identity, he is calling attention to his true identity
by way of a sema, and in noticing it first himself within his own narrative,
he shows by example what Penelope and the Homeric audience must
notice on their own. The verb here for notice is noeo, derivative of the
noun noos.
In like manner, the appropriately-named Alki-noos is said to notice
(verb noeo) the weeping of Odysseus, and he thereby discovers a sign that
leads to the recognition of the hero. Alkinoos is the only one of the
Phaeacians to notice, two times, that the disguised Odysseus weeps when
ever the blind bard of the Phaeacians sings tales about the Trojan War:
-vooc
Odyssey viii 94 and
A lki-noos was the

535

only one who observed15and noticed fverb noeo] him.

The ensuing speech of Alkinoos at viii 536-638 calls on the disguised


Odysseus to reveal his identitywhich is precisely what then happens at
the beginning of Book ix.
There are several passages that show how the verb noeo conveys simul
taneously the noticing of signs and the recognition of what they mean.
Those in particular who have man tic powers will instantly recognize the
facts of a matter simply by noticing a portent. The ultimate mdntis seer
12 For a variation on this theme, see xxi 205: Odysseus 'recognized* (verb
anagignosko) the noos of Eumaios and Philoitios. Then at xxi 217 he specifies for them the
sema of the scar. In other words. Odysseus here recognizes the noos that is capable of
recognizing the sema.
15 On phmzjomai as a verb that denotes the activity o f metis artifice, stratagem: Detienne
and Vemant 1974.25nS2.

206

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

is of course Apollo himself, and the following example of Apollos mode


of thinking as he spots a bird flying in the sky can serve as an ideal illus
tration:
,

Hymn to Hermes 213-214

He noticed [verb noeo1 a long-winged bird, and he recognized [verb


gignosko 1instantly
that the thief was the child of Zeus the son of Kronos.
In such contexts, the verb noeo is actually synonymous with gignsk in
the sense of recognize. Similarly, when old Priam notices (= verb noeo:
XXTV 294, 312) a bird sent by Zeus, he implicitly recognizes the
signal to approach the ships of the Achaeans. Or again, in response to
such ominous signals as the uncontrollable laughter of the impious sui
tors (xx 346) and the ghastly suffusion of the walls with blood (xx 354),
the seer Theoklymenos prudently decides to leave the banquet-hall:
.

Odyssey xx 367-368

since I notice [verb noeo] that evil fortune is


coming upon you.14
The translation recognize for noe here would be just as appropriate as
notice. By contrast, the suitors themselves foil to recognize the many
signs that signal their doom. Even when the disguised Odysseus kills
their leader, appropriately named Anti-noos (xxii 8-30), they still fail to
have noesis (verb noe. xxii 32).
All these signs, of course, seem more or less arbitrary. A signal like
bird flying in the sky, for example, may correspond to the declarative
message Hermes is the thief in one context, or to the imperative mes
sage Priam must go to Achilles in another. But a true recognition of
the sign, a true noesis of the sema, can be achieved only be recognizing
the internally coherent system of signals: it is not just a matter of bird
flying in the sky, for example, but rather, of 1 2 3 . . . n different kinds
14 For the diction, cf. Solon F 13.54 W [= F 1 GP]: 6'
he 1= a generic mantis *seer] recognizes [verb eiznosAo] a misfortune, even as it is heading
toward a man from afar (commentary in N 1985a.25).

Serna and Noesis

207

of birds flying . . . different ways in the sky. The bird that Priam
saw was flying in a right-hand direction (XXIV 294, 312); if it had been
flying in a left-hand direction, however, the signal would presumably
correspond to a message such as Priam must not go to Achilles! To cite
another example: in order to recognize the Dog Star as a sema (XXII 30)
bearing a yearly message of the parching in store for mankind (XXII
30-31), one has to know its relation to the other stellar semata in the sky,
and whatever messages they in turn may bear.15 Or again, in order to
recognize the baleful semata that were scratched by Proitos on the tablet
that the hero Bellerophon took with him to the king of Lycia (VI
168/176/178), the king has to know their relation to the other semata
in a system of markings and the relation of these markings to a set of
meanings. Whether these markings are ideograms or runes or even
letters, the point is that the king has to read them. And the present
argument is that noos would be an appropriate word for designating such
reading, such recognition of the system. The code composed of ele
ments such as A . . . could be decoded by the noos of the king of
Lycia, just as it was encoded by the noos of Proitos.
There is a striking analogy in Latin, which also has a bearing on
another important word in the realm of semiotics. The word in question
is signum sign*,16 and the context in question concerns the use of the
word by the Roman army in battle. In the parlance of strategy, the Latin
phrase for obey orders is signa sequiliterally, follow the signs (e.g.
Livy 3.28.3, 22.2.6, 23.35.7, 24.48.11, 30.35.6, 42.65.12). Synchronically,
the word signum in these contexts refers to a military standard carried by
the signifer standard-bearer. Diachronically, however, signum refers to
that which is followed*: if we follow Benveniste in reconstructing this
noun as *sekw-nom, then it is actually derived from the verb sequi fol
low*.17 Thus signa sequi would be a figura etymologica that encompasses
the system of traditional Roman military maneuvers:
signa subsequi
ab signis discedere
signafigere
signa monere
signa inferre
signa constituere

keep in order of battle*


desert
encamp
decamp, break up the
camp
attack
halt1

15 Consider also the message of the constellations Arktos and Orion for Odysseus:
v 271-277, in conjunction with v 121-124 (N 1979a.202-203).
16 For a survey: Benveniste 1969 2:255-263.
17 Benveniste 1948.122-124.

O dyssey

208

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

signa proferre
signa conuertere
signa conferre
etc.

advance1
wheel, turn, face about'
engage in close fight*

The signum in isolation is arbitrary, but each signal in the left column
above is part of an internally cohesive system or code. For the Roman
soldier, each signal corresponds to a message in the right column above,
a particular military action. Thus when the signum standard is planted
into the ground by the signifer standard-bearer, the soldier encamps;
when it is taken out again, he decamps; and so on. One might say that
the Roman soldier recognizes his commands because he recognizes the
system of signals. He can effectively obey individual commands because
he grasps the overall code.18
While such codes as the Roman system of military signa leave little
room for interpretation on the part of the destined recipients of their
messages, there are other codes that require prodigious feats of interpre
tation. For example, here is the reply given by the disguised Odysseus to
a command given him by Eumaios:
,
Odyssey xvii 281
I understand [verb eipnosko], I am aware. You are commanding these
things to one who recognizes [verb noeoj.
Yet the command of Eumaios is in this case hardly precise: he had told
the disguised Odysseus not to dally outside the palace lest someone
injure him or chase him away, adding the general command that Odys
seus should be observant of these things (xvii 279: pronoun id, verb
phrdzomai).19 Odysseus is in effect replying that he can obey successfully
because he can recognize the essence of these things* that Eumaios had
told him (xvii 281: pronoun id), and his recognition is expressed by the
verb noe (same line).
A given sema will not, of and by itself, explicitly declare or command.
To make sense of the message, one must have recognition (noun noos,
verb noeo) of how the sema works within its code. There is an admirable
18 Note especially the expression at Livy 23.35.7: signa sequi et in ae agnoscere ordines suos
to follow the signals and to recognize their positions in the battle-line*. The system (or
ordines) of the acies battle-line* depends on the system of signa. To recognize (or agnoscere)
the system of the signa is to recognize the ordines of the ades.
19 On phrdzomai as a verb of metis: p. 205nl3.

Sema and Noesis

209

illustration in the Homeric narrative of the Chariot Race in the course of


the Funeral Games of Patroklos {Iliad XXIII). To enable his son Antilokhos to win a prize in the race (XXIII 314), old Nestor gives him a lesson
in metis artifice, stratagem (313, in the context of 315318).20 As the
key to victory, Nestor gives his son a sema sign (326): when Antilokhos
reaches the terma turning point* in the race, he must risk getting as
close to it as possible, making the right side of his chariots horse-team
go faster and the left side, slowerthus effecting the quickest possible
turn around the terma (327-345):

Earlier, Nestor also tells his son that the skilled charioteer keeps his eye
on the terma as he heads toward it (323), watching for an opportunity to
pass a faster chariot (322-325) that is driven without such a sense of
goal-directedness (319-321). Antilokhos indeed finds such an opportun
ity, quickly passing and almost fishtailing the faster chariot of Menelaos
(417-441). In this context, Antilokhos himself uses the verb noe to
express what he is doing ( 415). What, then, makes Nestors sema
work as a key to victory? It is the ability of his son to recognize how the
sema works within its code, which is equated with simply noticing it. And
the word for this noticing/recognition is noe.
Nestor did not have to tell his son explicitly what to do and when to
do it. All he did was to give him a sema, and Antilokhos could then take
the initiative by way of recognizing and interpreting it correctly (verb noeo).21
The relationship of sema and noesis is in this passage formally enacted by
way of a phrase combining a negative with the verb leth escape the
mind o f (XXIII 326, 414-415):

20 For more on this passage: N 1979a.47.


21 On n o e in contexts of taking the initiative, see N I979a.51n. Cf.
the contexts of n o e sis at xxi 413-414,431; xxii 129.

sem a

at xxi 231 and

210

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

,
Iliad

XXIII 326

I [Nestor] will tell you a sema, a very distinct one, and it will not escape
your mind.

,
Iliad

XXIII 414-415

And I myself [Antilokhos] will devise these things and recognize [verb
noed\ how
to pass him at a narrow part of the road, and it will not escape my mind.

As we see in the second example, this negative phrase is synonymous


with the verb noe. This same phrase, which links the noun sema with the
verb now, recurs where Nestor is describing how a skilled charioteer
keeps his eyes on the terma turning point as he heads toward it:
* ,
,

Iliad

XXIII 323-325

. . . always keeping his eye on the terma, he makes a tight turn, and it does
not escape his mind,
as soon as he pulls at his ox-hide reins,
but he holds his pace steady, stalking the front-runner.

In view of Nestors specifically saying that the sema sign of victory (326)
centers on the way in which Antilokhos is to make his turn around the
turning point (327-345), and in view of the linkage between this sema
sign (326) and this terma turning point (323) by way of the formula
/ / and it will/does not escape your/his mind
(326/323), it is significant that the narrative raises the possibility that
the terma is itself a sema ( 331/ 333). But here (331) the
word sema has the specific meaning of tomb, a meaning that cannot be
discussed until later. For now it will suffice to stress again the connec
tion of the noun sema with the verb noe by way of this phrase combining
a negative with the verb leth escape the mind o f.22
22 The negative plus the root leth- is a litotes for the root mne- have in mind*. (On the

Sema and Noesis

211

There are two other instances of this phrase that merit special notice:

,

Hesiod Works and Days 267-269


The Eye of Zeus23sees everything and recognizes [verb noeo] everything.
If it so pleases him, he casts his glance downward upon these things as well,
and it does not escape his mind
what kind of justice [dike] is this that the city keeps within it.
* ,

Odyssey xi 126
I will tell you a sema, a very distinct one,
and it will not escape your mind.
From the previous instances of the formula and it will not escape
m y/your/his mind, it is to be expected, in the first passage, that the
cognition of Zeus is linked with the sema; and, in the second passage,
that getting the sign is linked with its recognition (noun noos or verb
noe).
To take the first passage first: there are indeed semala linked with the
cognition of Zeus, but such semata are encoded rather than decoded by
his noos. Thus, for example, a violent storm can be a sign sent by Zeus to
manifest his anger against a city over the violation of dike justice (XVI
384-393; dike at 388); and the most visible manifestation of violent
storms is genetically the lightning, which is in fact the most ubiquitous
sema of Zeus (e.g. XIII 244).24 What humans must do is to decode the vari
ous signs encoded by Zeus, which is a hard thing to do:
,
central role of the root mne- in Indo-European poetic diction, see Watkins 1987.270-271.)
Note the collocation of noeo and mne- at xx 204-205 ( . . . ,
I ). Note also the contexts of leihe as the opposite of noos, sur
veyed by Frame 1978.36-37,75-76.
23 On the Indo-European heritage of the theme Eye of Zeus, see the discussion of West
1978.223-224. It should be noted, however, that his discussion does not cover the ethical
implications of this theme.
24 In this passage the stylized expression oi and his flashes of light are
very clear to see might be connected with the theme Eye of Zeus (as at Hesiod Works and
Days 267; see the previous note).

212

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

*
Hesiod

Works an d Days 485-484

The noos of aegis-bearing Zeus is different at different times,


and it is hard to recognize [verb noeo) for mortal men.

In this very context Hesiod gives an example: when the sound of the
cuckoo is first heard across the land, that is a sign for rainstorms that
allow spring ploughing (Works and Days 485-492). These instructions
are then summed up as follows:
-

Hesiod

Works an d Days 491


492

Keep all these things well in mind, and let them not escape your mind
either the coming of gray25 spring or the seasonal rainstorm.

The expression and let them not escape your mind* implies, again, that
the word sema is understood. There is in fact a parallel Hesiodic passage
where the word serna is overt: when the sound of the migrating crane is
for the first time heard across the land (Works and Days 448-449), this is
a serna sign (450) for rainstorms that allow autumn ploughing
(450-451).
Now to take the second passage: in this instance, the seer Teiresias is
giving a sema to Odysseus (xi 126), and, to repeat, the follow-up expres
sion and it will not escape your mind (same line) raises the expectation
that getting the sign is linked with its recognition (noun noos or verb
noeo). The word noos is indeed overtly linked with the concept of sema
here, but again the attention is as much on the encodings on the decod
ing of the sign. The narrative stresses that Teiresias, who is giving the
sema to Odysseus (xi 126), is exceptional among the psukkai in Hades in
that his cognitive facultiesor phrenesare intact (x 493): it is because
Persephone had given him noos (x 494).26 This sema, then, is implicitly
encoded by the noos of Teiresiasand presumably must be decoded by the
noos of Odysseus.
The message of the sema sign given by Teiresias to Odysseus is actu
ally twofold. Before exploring this sign any further, however, it will be
25 The epithet gray seems to suggest overcast (peer West 1978.279), reflecting
the rainy days* as opposed to an epithet like bright* (e.g. Theocritus 18.27),
reflecting the clear days.
26 For further discussion: p. 92.

Sema and Noesis

213

useful to reconsider a sema sign given by Hesiod, namely, the sound of


the migrating crane, which signals the season of autumn ploughing
( Works and Days 450-451). As it turns out, this sema is itself twofold, for
the time when one must plough in the autumn is the same time when
one must not sail the seas (Works and Days 618-623). Besides the con
trast of the negative do not sail (622) with the positive do plough
(623), the latter teaching is reinforced with the expression memnemenos
being mindful (623, picking up from memnemenos arotou being mindful
of ploughing at 616), which is the positive equivalent of the negative
oude me/se/he leihet and it does not escape m y/your/his mind.27 One
who is memnemenos mindful, then, is by implication one whose nods
reads the sema of the crane and perceives that it is time to plough and
time not to sail.28 Similarly with the sema of Teiresias, the expression oude
se leset and it will not escape your mind (xi 126) is by implication chal
lenging the noos of Odysseus with a twofold message: what is an oar for
seafarers is a winnowing shovel for inlanders (cf. xi 121-137, xxiii
265-284).
The message of this sema, however, is twofold neither for the seafarers
nor for the inlanders, since the former can surely distinguish oars from
winnowing shovels while the latter are presented as knowing only about
winnowing shovels. Rather, the message is twofold only for Odysseus the
traveler, since he sees that the same signal has two distinct messages in
two distinct places: what is an oar for the seafarers is a winnowing shovel
for the inlanders. In order to recognize that one signal can have two
messages, Odysseus has to travel through the cities of many men. In all
his travels he will have come to know a wide variety of signs:

O d yssey

i3

He saw the cities o f many, and he came to know [g i g n o s k o ] their n o o s .

27 See pp. 210-21 ln22.


28 Cf. Theognis 1197-1202: the poet hears the sound of the crane (1197-1198), which
signals the season of autumn ploughing for men (1198-1199). But the poet is sad and
helpless: he has lost his lands because of a sea voyage, which now weighs on his mind
( . . . 1202). In line with the present interpretation of Hesiod W orks a n d
D a y s 450-451/618-623, the root m n e - expressing 'on my mind' here (Theognis 1202)
implies that the sound of the crane is a s e m a sign. For more on the sound of the migrat
ing crane as a s e m a , see the commentary at N 1985a.64-68 on Theognis 1197-1202 and
related passages.

214

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

This verse is suitable for describing what Odysseus would have to do in


following the instructions of Teiresias:
*

O d yssey

xxiii 267-268

. . . since he [Teiresias] instructed me [Odysseus] to go


to very many cities of mortals

Moreover, the gesture of planting the handle of his oar into the ground
(xi 129), which is what Odysseus is instructed to do when he reaches a
place where the natives mistake his oar for a winnowing shovel, is itself
the bearer of a twofold message. To plant the handle of a winnowing
shovel in a heap of grain at a harvest festival is a formal act symbolizing
that the winnower's work is finished (e.g. Theocritus 7.155-156).29 And
to plant the handle of an oar in the ground is to symbolize that the
oarsman's work is likewise finishedas in the case of Odysseus dead
companion Elpenor, whose tomb is to be a mound of earth with the han
dle of his oar planted on top (xi 75-78, xii 13-15).30 So also with Odys
seus: he too will never again have to sail the seas. Moreover, Odysseus
own oar planted in the ground is a stylized image of his own tomb! And
yet, this tomb is situated as far away from the sea as possible, whereas
Odysseus' death is to come ex halos out of the sea' (xi 134). There is no
need to argue on this basis that the phrase ex halos somehow means away
from the sea'.29301 Rather, the twofold semantic nature of the sema for
Odysseus is formalized in the coincidentia oppositorum of his finding the
sign for his death from the sea precisely when he is farthest away from
the sea.32
29 Hansen 1977.38-39.
30 Hansen pp. 38-39.
31 Pace Hansen pp. 42-48.
32 For other instances of coincidentia oppositorum as a characteristic of Odysseus stories, see
N 1979a.206. Compare also the factor of coinddentia oppositorum in the latter-day Demotic
stories of Saint Elias, whose shrines are in fact on tops of hills and mountains, far away
from the sea, but who had lived the life of a seaman; for an acute analysis of these stories
about Saint Elias and the oar, strikingly parallel to the story about Odysseus and the oar,
see Hansen pp. 27-41. Hansen also calls attention to an ancient shrine on a mountain in
landlocked Arcadia, said to have been founded by Odysseus in gratitude to Athena S o teira
Savior and Poseidon (!) after the hero returned safely from Troy (Pausanias 9.44.4). So
also with Saint Elias: his chapels are built on tops of hills and mountains, the story goes,
because it was on top of a mountain that his oar was mistaken for a stick (Hansen p. 29).
On the apparently symbiotic relationship of Odysseus here with Poseidon and Athena on
the level of cult, as opposed to his antagonistic relationship with them on the level of myth,
cf. N 1979a.l21, 142-152, 289-295. The antagonism of Odysseus and Athena is of course

The
given b ^ T e ? " " rem ai"s to be ^

^ N o e s is

^
<
*
"g o f -tomb! which"'*' meaing of .W rd s m^n'ng Thmb? For "

XXIU 45 7.

( e g

h ,s in v e n tio n ,?,

gn bu<also *

Word **na

o f E lp e n o r )
?
shna to m b 1 o f p ' y " feed as a i! Specific mean * to m b 'c a ,! . ^ in f=*< a l r e a d y ^ ' 05 "< * 7 5 T * " ? of
s'S n (X X lll 3 2 fi? T erge ^
"
no,edM * a t th i Z " * ,omb'

is r a ? ^ n s ^ :**

point U a

td

' 0>,

't is e ith e r the i o m b J W l o f a m a

XXIII331-333

Of U was a t u m l ^ i n d h e timeT?
a 'on* ago.
Now swift-footed brilliant Achilles h
m"
[ terma plural |
has set it up as the turning pnin.
As Dale Sinos points out,*545the tnm*
h e pan-H ellenic Games were convenonaNv H f
racecourses at
h ero es: Pausanias (6.20.15-19) re p o m th Ihe"
' t<>mbs f
was called T a ra x ip p o s he who d is m r ,u l
of one such hero
p o s o fte n c a u s e s t e c h a ^ o u
20
9? * t * ? ' ^
- ?

V " T

SSS,'",okh *- - * *a is :

Sinos also points out that the heros tomb, from the standpoint of
H o m e n c epos, is a physical manifestation of his kleos glory as conferred
by p o etry (e.g. iv 584).56 The tomb shared by Achilles and Patroklos,
w hich is to be visible n ot only for men of their time but also for the gen
e ra tio n s o f th e future (xxiv 80-84), along with the Funeral Games for
fo r th e m o s t p a r t la te n t in th e Odyssey, b u t it m ust have been overt in some Nostoi traditions
(e v e n as r e fle c te d by th e Odysseyr. iii 130ff., xiii 2 2 Iff.).

55 See pp. 209-210.


54 Sinos 1980.53n6.
55 Rohde 1898 1:173 and nl.
* Sinos 1980.47.

216

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Achilles (xxiv 85-92), are the two explicit reasons for the everlasting kleos
of Achilles (xxiv 93-94). In this context the etymology of sema sign,
tomb can be brought to bear; as a sign' of the dead hero, the tomb is
a reminder of the hero and his kleos. Thus the sema tomb of a man who
died a long time ago (XXIII 331) is appropriate for Achilles to set as a
turning point for the chariot race in honor of the dead PatroMees he
who has the kleos of the ancestors.57 This meaning of the name of
Patroklos converges with the connotations of in
the times of earlier men at XXIII 332, describing the heroic era that may
have been the setting for the use of the turning point, which in turn may
have been a sema tomb belonging to someone described as
a man who died a long time ago at XXIII 331.
Dale Sinos has written of this passage:58
The sema of the dead man will turn out to be the realization of the hint,
the sema of Nestor to his son. The latent function of sema tomb* thus
becomes overt: the hint becomes the tomb. Likewise, the tomb
becomes a hint of a Dead Mans presence, invoked by Achilles. Can one
connect this presence of a long-dead hero with the newly dead hero of
Iliad XXIII? The very name Patro-klees helps provide an answer to this
question. Patroklos re-enacts the eternal scheme of attaining kleos, and his
name provides the present epic situation with the past glories of the ances
tors. The Patroklos figure validates the Iliad by establishing the link with
the eternal values of kleos. From our point of view, even the name Patroklees is a sema, as it were, for these eternal values. His role enacts his name,
and his name is a key to the tradidon which gives kleos to Achilles and
marks the Iliad as the heroic present with an eternal past. Tradidon is
dependent on the condnuadon of ancestral values by their re-enactment
in the present. In mythos, the ancestor functions as hero, operating as he
does in a timeless scheme. From the standpoint of mythos, the Dead Man
of XXIII 331 and the Patroklos of Book XXIII in toto are parallel figures
with parallel functions.

The narrative of the Iliad emphatically maintains, to repeat, that the


turning point for the chariot race in honor of Patroklos had been in the
past either just that, a turning point, or else a sema tomb (XXIII
331-332). The ostentatiously presented alternative of a sema tomb
(331), in view of the sema sign of Nestor to his son only five verses ear
lier (326), bears its own message: not only the tomb is a sign but the very
mention of the tomb may be a sign. To put it another way: a sema is a
57 For more on the meaning of Patro-klees as he who has the kleos of the ancestors: N
1979a. 102-103.111-115.177. 319. Cf. also p. 94 above.
* Sinos 1980.48-49.

Sema and Noesis

217

reminder, and the very use of the word is a reminder. But the attitude of
the narrative is one of take it or leave it. If you reject the alternative
that the turning point is a sema tomb of a dead man, then the sema
sign of Nestor to Antilokhos has a simplex message about how to take a
turn; if you accept it, on the other hand, then the same sema sign* has
an additional message about the sema tomb* as a reminder of kleos.
T here is reason to think that Antilokhos is to recognize the turning
point as both a turning point and a tomb by virtue of the sema given him
by Nestor, just as Odysseus is to recognize the oar as both an oar and a
winnowing shovel by virtue of the sema given him by Teiresias. The key
is noos. To begin, the cognition of Nestor and Antilokhos in encoding
and decoding the sema, respectively, is a matter of noos:

Iliad XXIII 305
He [Nestor] spoke to him [Antilokhos], having good intentions toward
him, and he [Antilokhos] too was aware [verb noeo\.
The kai too* of he too was aware* here stresses that the decoder has
noos too, not just the encoder. When the time comes for Antilokhos to
take the initiadve, in a situadon not specifically anticipated by the
instrucdons of Nestor, he says: I will have noos* ( [verb noeo\ XXIII
415). Then he executes the dangerous maneuver of passing the faster
chariot of Menelaos (XXIII 418-441), in an impulsive manner that is
condem ned by Menelaos as lacking in good sense (XXIII 426; cf. the dic
tion of 320-321). The self-acknowledged impulsiveness of Antilokhos at
this point of the action is then counterbalanced by his clever use of ver
bal restraint after his prize is challenged by an angry Menelaos, who is
thus flattered into voluntarily ceding the prize to Antilokhos (XXIII
586-611).39 The impulsiveness and restraint of Antilokhos in action and
in speech, respectively, as Douglas Frame pointed out to me viva voce
years ago, correspond to the speeding up and the slowing down of his
right- and left-hand horses, respectively, as he rounds the semawhich is
the feat of noos that Nestor had taught him.40 Winning his prize,
39 Ironically, it is the n o o s of Antilokhos that Menelaos calls into question (XXI11 604, in
response to the clever self-deprecation of Antilokhos himself at XXIII 590). I agree with
Detienne and Vernant (1974.22-24,29-31, /;areLesher 1981.19 and 24n38) that Antilokhos
has succeeded rather than failed in accomplishing a feat of m e tis .
40 See pp. 208ff. I note with interest a parallel theme in the iconography of the Munster
Hydria (published in Sthler 1967): the turn of the chariot team is counterclockwise in this
Black Figure representation (on the image of the turning point, see further at p. 220), and
the right-hand horses have their heads thrust farther ahead than the left-hand horses, as if
the impulse and the restraint were greater on the right and the left, respectively.

218

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Antilokhos then hands it over to a companion who is appropriately


named Noemn (XXIII 612)a form derived from the verb noe.
Another appropriate name is that of Nestor himself, the man whose noos
encodes the message decoded by Antilokhos. As Douglas Frame has
argued convincingly, the form Nes-tor is an agent-noun derived from the
root *nes-, just as noos is an action-noun derived from the same root.41
Significantly, Nestor, too, gets a prize from Achilles, even though the old
man had not competed in the chariot race. And the purpose of this
prize, Achilles says, is that it will be a mnema rem inder of the funeral of
Patroklos ( XXIII 619)! Thus the narra
tive comes full circle around the sema of Nestor: the encoder had given a
sema sign to Antilokhos about the turning point, which may have been
used in the chariot races of ancestral times, in
the times of earlier men (XXIII 332), or which may have been the sema
tomb of someone described as a man
who died a long time ago' (XXIII 331), and this hint about Patro-klees he
who has the glory of the ancestors is then formalized in the prize given
by Achilles to Nestor as a mnema rem inder of Patroklos* funeral.
The question is: what do these associations of sema have to do with the
semantics of noos? As Frame argues in the course of his illuminating
book, noos is an action-noun derived from the Indo-European root-verb
*nes- meaning return to light and life. This meaning is possibly still
attested in Indie Nasatyauf a name of the Divine Twins who bring about
sunrise after the night brought on by each sunset.42 The root-verb *nesis attested in Greek as neomai, but in this case means simply return, not
return to light and life. One derivative of neomai is nostos return,
homecoming*and another is noos! As Frame also argues, the theme of
return to light and life* is recovered by way of the pervasive interplay
between the themes of noos and nostos within the overall framework of
the Odyssey, the key to the nostos homecoming of Odysseus is his noos,
and the nostos is endangered whenever the noos is threatened by lethe
forgetfulness*, as in the story of the Lotus-Eaters.43 There are in fact two
aspects of nostos in the Odyssey, one is of course the heros return from
Troy, and the other, just as important, is his return from Hades. More
over, the theme of Odysseus descent and subsequent nostos return
from Hades converges with the solar dynamics of sunset and subsequent
sunrise.44 The movement is from dark to light, from unconsciousness to
consciousness as expressed by noos. In fact, the hero is asleep as he floats
41 Frame 1978.81-115. See also pp. 22511. below.
42 Frame pp. 134-152. Cf. pp. 92fT. above.
43Cf.pp. 210-21 ln22.
44 See N 1979a.206; cf. N 1985a.74-76.

Sema and Noesis

219

in darkness to his homeland, and sunrise comes precisely when his boat
reaches the shores of Ithaca (xiii 79-95).45
But the quesdon still remains: how does the story of Nestors sema per
tain to the semantics of noon? A partial answer is to be found in juxtapos
ing the semantics of sema and nostos, the oven derivative of root *nes-.
Just as sema has the general meaning of sign and the specific meaning
of tomb, so also nostos has the general meaning of return (from Troy)
and the specific meaning of return to light and life' (from Hades).46
This specific meaning of nostos seems to match that of the root *nes- as
attested in the verb neomai itself in this striking phrase from the poetry of
Pindar:
I
Pindar Nemean 7.19-20
Both rich and poor return [verb neomai] by going past the sema of Death.
The language is that of chariot racing, it seems, with the verb neomai
return connoting the home stretch after rounding the turning point.
Here, too, as with Nestors sema, the turning point is not just a sign: it
is a sign of Deathor, to use the Homeric application, a tomb.
But the sema of the chariot race in honor of the dead Patroklos is not
just a tomb that serves as a reminder of a man who died a long time
ago. It is also a sign that was encoded by the noos of Nes-tor he who
brings about a return47*(cf. again XXIII 305) .4MAnd the word noos con
veys life after death, not only by virtue of its etymology' return to light
and life but also by virtue of its usage in Homeric diction: noos is the
quality that allows the psukhe to be cognitive even after death, as in the
case of the seer Teiresias (x 492-494).49 In other words, noos is the quality
that reintegrates the psukhe of the dead with thmos and menos, the physi
cal manifestations of consciousness in the body, and in this sense noos is
the quality that can reintegrate psukhe and body.50 Thus the sema is not
just the sign of death, it is also the potential sign of life after death. In
this light, it may be possible to interpret the Pindaric phrase above as fol
lows: Both rich and poor return to light and life by going past the sema
of Death. In any case, the sema is a signpost for noos. There is, for
45Frame 1978.75-76,78. Cf. Segal 1962.
44N 1985a.74-81, adducing Theognis 11231125 and related passages.
47For the active diathesis of - Frame 1978:96-115.
49As quoted at p. 217.
49For a fuller discussion: pp. 92ff.
50See pp. 92ff.

220

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

example, the sema tomb* of Ilos, local hero of Troy, which is where Hek
tar plans his plans* (boulas bouledec X 415).51 Or there is the sema of *a
man who died a long time ago, upon which Antilokhos must fix his eyes
as he approaches with his chariot ( 323), waiting for an opportun
ity to use his noos. Or again, there is the sema of Achilles and Patroklos
at the Hellespont, which is telephones shining from afar as a beacon of
salvation for sailors at sea (xxiv 80-84, in conjunction with XIX
374-380).52 In the Black Figure iconography of the Mnster Hydria,53
this very sema is visualized against a red background as a gleaming white
egg-shaped mass rising out of the ground, with the pskhe of Patroklos
himself hovering over it (the homunculus is actually labeled in the pic
ture, with the lettering ); meanwhile, the chariot of Achilles is
racing around it, counterclockwise, with horses at full gallopand with
Achilles himself running alongside.54
In sum, it seems as if the contextual connections of sema and noos
reflect not only the etymology of noos as return to light and life but also
the etymology of sema as a cognate of Indie dhyehna thought. The
related Indie form dhtyas thoughts is in fact attested as designating the
consciousness of man in awakening and reminding the sun, by sacrifice,
to rise, as well as the consciousness of man in being reminded by the rising
sun to awaken and sacrifice.55 This theme is in turn closely linked with
Indie concepts of life after death.56
It bears repeating that it was Achilles himself who had chosen the
would-be sema tomb as the turning point for the chariot race (XXIII
333). Upon receiving the prize from Achilles, Nestor remarks that he
rejoices
k uru ,
51 For more on the boule 'planning' of Hektor, see p. 204nl0.
52 Sec N 1979a.SS8-341. In this connection, we may note with the greatest interest the
description of cult heroes in Pausanias 2.12.5: their gravestones are visible from afar,
located on top of a hill, and before the celebration of the Mysteries of Demeter, the natives
are described as specifically looking at these mnemata monuments,
, as they invoke the heroes to attend the libations.
55 Published in Stabler 1967.
M See Stabler pp. 15, 32-33, 44, who argues that the represented activity of racing
around the tomb of Patroklos, with the chariot rider jum ping off and running alongside,
can be conceived simultaneously as an athletic event and a ritual act of hero worship; cf.
also p. 88n20, above. The athletic event, as featured for example at the Panathenaia,
involves the feat of leaping in full armor from a racing chariot and then leaping back on
again; the athlete who performs this feat is the apobdtis (cf. Dionysius of Halicarnassus
7.73; Harpocration s.v.; also the bibliography assembled in Connor 1987.45).
55 See pp. 114fT.
56 See pp. 114ff.

Sema and Noesis

221


I lia d

XXIII 648-649

because you always keep me in mind, benevolent that I am, and 1 do not
escape your mind
when it comes to the honor that is my due among the Achaeans.

By implication, then, Achilles himself had noos both in choosing the


turning point and in rewarding Nestor for having the noos to recognize
this turning point as a sema tomb'. Nestor prays that the gods reward
Achilles for having rewarded him (XXIII 650), and the narrative then
concludes his speech by calling it an ainos (XXIII 652). This is not the
place to attem pt a thorough definition of this poetic form called ainos,
and it will suffice here to offer a summary: the ainos is a complex poetic
discourse that is deemed worthy of a prize or reward, which is meant
specifically to praise the noble, and which bears two or more messages
within its one code.5758In the last respect, the ainos of Nestor matches the
sema of Nestor.
It could even be said that the ainos of Nestor is a sema, and that poetry
itself can be a sema.50 Homeric diction makes this clear by occasionally
equating an epos utterance with a sema. For example, Odysseus prays to
Zeus for both a portent and a pheme prophetic utterance* as indications
of his future success against the suitors (xx 98-101). In response, Zeus
sends both lightning (103-104) and a pheme (105). The pheme takes the
form of words spoken by a slave woman who is grinding grain with her
mill, and she prays to Zeus to punish the suitors, who have made her
work so hard (105-119). The narrative introduces her words by calling
them an epos (111), which is specifically identified as a sema for Odysseus
(same line). The poetic format of what the woman says is apparent not
only from such parallels as Carmina Popularia PMG 869 but also from the
use of epos, which is attested in archaic poetic diction as meaning not just
utterance but also specifically poetic utterance*.59 And again, the
faculty for encoding the verbal sema is noos:60 thus after Zeus expresses
his Will by way of nodding his head (I 524-527), Hera goads him for not
telling what it is, that is, for not making an epos out of what he has in his
noos (verb noe: I 543). Zeus replies that the muthos utterance* that he
has in his noos (verb noe: I 549) is for him alone to know. But of course
57 See N 1979a.235-241.
58 Similarly in the case of the Indie cognate d h y / d h i - think and its derivative d h ty a s
thoughts: these words can designate the inspiration of poetry (see pp. 114ff.).
59 See Koller 1972; also N 1979a.236.272.
60 For other instances of encoding words, as expressed by noe , see VII 358, Xll 232,

222

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

the Homeric audience knows, since the Iliad declares programmatically


that its plot is the Will of Zeus (I 5).61 In this sense the entire Iliad is a
sema reinforcing the Will of Zeus.
The end of this presentation is by necessity also a prelude to other
presentations, in that the testimony of Greek poetry about sema and
noesis turns out to be a lesson in how to read this poetry: the Greek
poem is a sema that requires the noesis of those who hear it.62
61On which see N 1979a.81-82n2 and the references there.
62The same applies to the poetic utterances of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi: cf.
Theognis 808 and Heraclitus B 93 DK. There is also an example where the poem seems to
be implicitly a sem a not only in the sense of sign but also in the sense of tomb: in
Theognis 1209-1210 (quoted at pp. 27S-274 below) the poet seems to be saying that this
poetry is his se m a tomb (commentary in N 1985a.76-81). Cf. Svenbro 1988a, esp. p. 96.

CHAPTER 9

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon, and


the White Rock of Leukas:
Reading the Symbols o f Greek Lyric

In the arcane Greek myths of Phaethon and Phaon there are latent
themes that help resolve three problems of interpretation in Greek poe
try. The first of these problems is to be found in the Partheneion of Ale
man (PMG 1). It concerns a wondrous horse conjured up in a simile
describing the beauty of the maiden Hagesikhora, center of attention in
the song-and-dance ensemble:




Aleman PMG 1.45-49
For she appears
outstanding, as when someone
sets among grazing beasts a horse,
well-built, a prize-winner, with thundering hooves,
from out of those dreams underneath the rock.

So the problem is, what is the meaning of ? I translate


underneath the rock* following the scholia of the Louvre Papyrus,
which connect this adjective with = petra rock and quote the fol
lowing passage from the Odyssey.
n ap

223

224

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual


Odyssey iv 11-12

And they passed by the streams of Okeanos and the White Rock [Leukas
petra)

and past the Gates of the Sun and the District of Dreams.

This interpretation has been rejected by Denys Page, who argues: T h e


reference to [Odyssey] xxiv I l f is irrelevant; nothing is said there about
dreams living under rocks."1 Instead, Page follows the Etymologicum
Magnum (783.20), where we read sustained by wings, so
that the wondrous horse being described would be something out of
winged dreams; in support of this interpretation, Page adduces passages
where dreams are represented as winged beings (e.g. Euripides Hecuba
70) .2 All the same, Page retains the reading in his edited
text, so that we are left to assume some sort of ad hoc metathesis of
to , as if the local Laconian dialectal pronun
ciation of the word for wing were petr- rather than pter-. Other experts,
though hesitantly, go along with the interpretation under rocks, allow
ing for some vague notion of dreams abiding underneath some mysteri
ous rock in the Laconian poetic imagination.3 In the most accessible
chrestomathy of Greek lyric, the editor chooses to take at
face value: the dreams are those of siestas taken underneath a shady
rock.4
The second problem of interpretation, then, is the significance of the
White Rock, Ijeukas petra, in Odyssey xxiv 11. This mysterious place has to
be viewed in the overall context of Odyssey xxiv 1-14, describing the pas
sage of the spirits of the suitors of Penelope, who have just been killed by
Odysseus, into the realm of the dead. This description, known as the
Introduction to the Second Nekyia, represents a distinct subgenre of
Greek epic. It is replete with idiosyncrasies in both theme and diction,5
and its contents afford a precious glimpse into early Greek concepts of
1 Page 1951.87.
2 Page p. 87.
5 Wilamowitz 1897.252n2.
4 Campbell 1976.203. I infer that the editor had in mind passages like Hesiod Works and
Days 588-589.
5 For a survey, see Page 1955.116-119. For some, including Page, such idiosyncrasies
mean that the passage is an insertion and does not intrinsically belong where it is found in
the text. I disagree, believing that the epic genre consists of several subgenres, and that
each subgenre has its idiosyncrasies in theme and diction. For a survey of the principle
that each epic subgenre (such as that of similes) has its own distinctive archaisms as well as
innovations, see Householder and Nagy 1972.741-743.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

225

afterlife. Nowhere else in Homeric diction do we find the puzzling


expressions Gates [pttlat] of the Sun,
District [demos] of Dreams, and White Rock [Leukds
petra]. On the level of content, however, there do exist Homeric paral
lels to the first two of the three expressions.
In the instance of Gates [piilat] of the Sun, there is a
thematic parallelism between pulai gates and Homeric Pubs Pylos.
As Douglas Frame has demonstrated, the royal name Nestor and the
place-name of King Nestors realm, Pubs Pylos, are based on mythologi
cal models.6 I should stress that Frames arguments are used not to
negate a historical Nestor and the historical Pylos, but rather to show
that the kernel of the epic tradition about Nestor and Pylos was based on
local myths linked with local cults. The clearest example is a story,
represented as Nestors own tale within the Iliad, that tells of the heros
retrieving the cattle of Pylos from the Epeians (XI 671-761). Frame
argues convincingly that the retrieved cattle are a thematic analogue to
the Cattle of the Sun.7 The etymology of Nestor, explained by Frame as
he who brings back to light and life, is relevant.8 We have already noted
the association of words built out of the root *nes- with the theme of
sunrise.9 In fact, the entire plot of Odysseus travels is interlaced with dic
tion that otherwise connotes the theme of sunset followed by sunrise.
To put it more bluntly, the epic plot of Odysseus travels operates on an
extended solar metaphor, as Frame argues in adducing the internal evi
dence of Homeric theme and diction.10 Likewise, when Nestor returns
the cattle to Pylos, it is implicit that Pylos is the Gate of the Sun and an
entrance to the underworld.11 There are survivals of this hieratic conno
tation in the local Pylian lore of classical times (Pausanias 4.36.2-3).12 In
a Homeric allusion to the myth about Herakles descent into the
underworld and his wounding of Hades {Iliad V 395-404), the name
Pylos actually serves to connote the realm of the otherworld rather than
any realm of this world:
6 Frame 1978.81-115.
8 Frame pp. 87-90. 92. Just as Nestor brings his cattle back to Pylos, so also another
figure, M elampous. on whose solar significance see Frame pp. 91-92.

8See p. 218.
9 See p. 218. Cf. also pp. 92fT., with reference to Frames (1978) demonstration of the
traditional theme that represents sunrise as symbolically parallel with a return to conscious
ness, the Greek word for which is noos.
10 Note esp. Frame pp. 75-76, 78 on Odyssey xiii 79-95, where the return of Odysseus
coincides with sunrise, at which point the hero can Anally awaken from the deathlike sleep
that had held him for the duration of his nighttime sea voyage homeward. Cf. p. 218. Also
Segal 1962.

11 Frame pp. 92-93.


18 For details, see Frame pp. 90-91.

226

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual


I lia d

V 397

in Pylos, among the dead

Hades himself is the puldrtes gate-closer (Iliad VIII 367, etc.). In short,
the thematic associations of Pulos imply that the Gate of the Sun is also
the Gate of the Underworld, and thus we have a parallel to the context
of Gates [plai] of the Sun in xxiv 12. Accordingly, a
Homeric expression like pass by the gates of
Hades (V 646; cf. XXIII 71) implies that the pskhat spirits* of the dead
traverse to the underworld through the same passage traveled by the sun
when it sets.
In the instance of District [demos] of Dreams (Odyssey
xxiv 12), the concept of a community of dreams situated past the Gates
of Hades is thematically consistent with other Homeric expressions
involving dreams. After a person dies, his pskhe spirit flies off
like a dream* (xi 222). Hermes, who is conducting the pskhat
of the dead suitors (xxiv 1), is also the conductor of dreams,
(Hymn to Hermes 14). Since it is Hermes who leads the pskhat of
the suitors past the Gates of the Sun (xxiv 11), it is significant that
another of his inherited epithets is puledokos (Hymn to Hermes 15), to be
interpreted as he who receives [the pskhat] at the Gates*.13 These are
the Gates of Hades, or we may call them the Gates of the Sun. But there
is also another name available. Since Hermes conducts dreams as well as
the ghosts of the dead, and since dreams move like ghosts, it is not
surprising that dreams, too, have gates (Odyssey xix 562; cf. iv 809).14
Since the Gates [plai] of the Sun* are already men
tioned in xxiv 12, we may expect District [demos] of
Dreams* in the same line to be a periphrastic substitute for a redundant
concept Gates of Dreams.
In the instance of White Rock [Leuks petrY (Odyssey
xxiv 11), we find no parallel in Homeric theme and diction. All we can
say about the White Rock at this point is that its collocation with
District [demos] of Dreams* (xxiv 12) seems parallel to the

13This epithet serves as a counterexample to the argument of Page 1955.117 that in


Homeric poetry Hermes functions as psychopomp only in O d y ssey xxiv. Cf. also Whit
man 1958.217-218 on I lia d XXIV.
14 As for the epithet without vital force [ m e n o s Y applied to dreams'
here at O dyssey xix 562, we may note that it is applied in the O d y ssey exclusively to the dead
throughout its other attestations ( at x 521, 536; xi 29, 49).

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

227

expression from dreams underneath a rock in


Alemans Partheneion (PMG 1.49).
As we begin to examine the attestations of Leuks petr White Rock*
beyond Homer, we come upon the third problem of interpretation, con
cerning the White Rock and a figure called Phaon:



.
, ,

Menander F 25815
where they say that Sappho was the first,
hunting down the proud Phaon,
to throw herself, in her goading desire, from the rock
that shines from afar. But now, in accordance With your sacred utterance,
lord king, let there be silence throughout the sacred precinct of the head
land o f Leukas.

This fragment, alluding to a story about Sapphos jumping into the


sea for love of Phaon, is from a play of Menanders entitled The Leukadia.
We infer from M enanders lines that Sappho leapt off the White Rock of
Leukas in pursuit of Phaon. It is to Strabo that we owe the preservation
of these verses (10.2.9 C452). He is in the process of describing Cape
Leukas, a prom inent white rock jutting out from Leukas into the sea and
toward Kephallenia.16 From this rock Sappho is supposed to have
jum ped into the sea after Phaon. Strabo goes on to describe a shrine of
Apollo Leukatas situated on Cape Leukas and an ancestral cult practice
connected with it. Every year, he reports, some criminal was cast down
from the white rock into the sea below for the sake of averting evil,
{ibid.). Wings and even birds would be fastened to him,
and men in fishing boats would be stationed below the rock in order to
retrieve the victim after his plunge {ibid.).
As Wilamowitz has convincingly argued,17 Menander chose for his
play a setting that was known for its exotic cult practice involving a white
rock and conflated it in the quoted passage with a literary theme likewise
15This passage must have belonged to the introductory anapests of the play (scholia A to
Hephaestion 6.3).
16 Corinthian settlers called the entire territory Leukas, after Cape Leukas; cf. Strabo
10.2.8 C452.
17 Wilamowitz 1913.25-40.

228

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

involving a white rock. There are two surviving attestations of this


theme. The first is from lyric:


Anacreon PMG 376
One more time taking off in the air, down from the White
Rock into the dark waves do I dive, intoxicated with lust.
The second is from satyr drama:

() "

.

Euripides Cyclops 163-168
I would be crazy not to give all the herds of the Cyclopes
in return for drinking one cup [of that wine]
and throwing myself from the white rock into the brine,
once I am intoxicated, with eyebrows relaxed.
Whoever is not happy when he drinks is crazy.
In both instances, falling from the white rock is parallel to falling into
a swoonbe it from intoxication or from making love. As for
Menanders allusion to Sapphos plunge from a Leukds white rock,
Wilamowitz reasonably infers that there must have existed a similar
theme, which does not survive, in the poetry of Sappho. Within the
framework of this theme, the female speaker must have pictured herself
as driven by love for a certain Phaon, or at least so it was understood by
the time New Comedy flourished.19 So the third and the last of the three
problems is, why should Sappho seem to be in love with a mythical
figure?
About Phaon himself we have no reports beyond the meager frag
ments gathered in Sappho F 211 V. It appears that he was an old
porthmeus ferryman who was transformed into a beautiful youth by
Aphrodite herself; also, the goddess fell in love with this beautiful Phaon
" F o r a discussion of the restoration (), see Wilamowitz pp. 30-31 n2; following
Wilamowitz. Dieterich 19IS.vii retracts his earlier reading without ().
19 Wilamowitz pp. 33-37.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

229

and hid him in a head of lettuce. Besides specifically attesting the latter
myth in Cratinus (F 330 Kock), Athenaeus (69d-e) also cites striking
parallels in Eubulus (F 14 Kock) and Callimachus (F 478 Pfeiffer), where
we see that Adonis, too, was hidden in a head of lettuce by Aphrodite.
This thematic parallelism of Aphrodite and Phaon with Aphrodite and
Adonis becomes more important as we come to another myth about the
second pair.
According to the account in Book VII of the mythographer
Ptolemaios Chennos (ca. A.D. 100; by way of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153
Bekker),20 the first to dive off the heights of Cape Leukas was none
other than Aphrodite herself, out of love for a dead Adonis. After
Adonis died (how it happened is not said), the mourning Aphrodite
went off searching for him and finally found him at Cypriote Argos, in
the shrine of Apollo Erithios. She consults Apollo, who instructs her to
seek relief from her love by jumping off the white rock of Leukas, where
Zeus sits whenever he wants relief from his passion for Hera. Then
Ptolemaios launches into a veritable catalogue of other figures who fol
lowed Aphrodites precedent and took a ritual plunge as a cure for love.
For example, Queen Artemisia I is reputed to have leapt off the white
rock out of love for one Dardanos, succeeding only in getting herself
killed. Several others are mendoned who died from the leap, including
a certain iambographer Charinos, who expired only after being fished
out of the water with a broken leg, but not before blurdng out his four
last iambic trimeters, painfully preserved for us with the compliments of
Ptolemaios (and Phodus as well). Someone called Makes was more for
tunate: having succeeded in escaping from four love affairs after four
corresponding leaps from the white rock, he earned the epithet
Leukopetms. We may follow the lead of Wilamowitz in quesdoning the
degree of historicity in such accounts.21 There is, however, a more
important concern. In the lengthy and detailed account of Ptolemaios,
Sappho is not mendoned at all, let alone Phaon. From this silence I
infer that the source of this myth about Aphrodite and Adonis is
independent of Sapphos own poetry or of later distordons based on it.22
.Accordingly, the ancient cult pracdce at Cape Leukas, as described by
Strabo (10.2.9 C452), may well contain some intrinsic element that
inspired lovers leaps, a pracdce also noted by Strabo (ibid.). The second
pracdce seems to be derived from the first, as we might expect from a
priesdy insdtudon that becomes independent of the social context that
20 Westermann 1843.197-199.
21 Wilamowitz 1913.28.
22 Pace Wilamowitz 1913.28.

230

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

had engendered it. Abstracted from their inherited tribal functions, reli
gious institutions have a way of becoming mystical organizations.23
Another reason for doubting that Sapphos poetry had been the
inspiration for the lovers leaps at Cape Leukas is the attitude of Strabo
himself. He specifically disclaims Menanders version about Sapphos
being the first to take the plunge at Leukas. Instead, he offers a version
of the arkhaiologikteroi those more versed in the ancient lore, according
to which Kephalos son of Deioneus was the very first to have leapt,
impelled by love for Pterelas (Strabo 10.2.9 C452). Again, I see no rea
son to take it for granted that this myth concerning historical Leukas had
resulted from some distortion of the cults features because of Sapphos
literary influence.24 The myth of Kephalos and his dive may be as old as
the concept of Leukds, the White Rock. I say concept" because the
ritual practice of casting victims from a white rock such as that of Leukas
may be an inheritance parallel to the epic tradition about a mythical
White Rock on the shores of the Okeanos (as in Odyssey xxiv 11) and the
related literary theme of diving from an imaginary White Rock (as in the
poetry of Anacreon and Euripides). In other words, it is needless to
assume that the ritual preceded the myth or the other way around.
Actually, there are other historical places besides Cape Leukas that
are associated with myths about diving. For example, Charon of Lampsakos (v B.C., FGH 262 F 7)25 reports that Phobos, of the lineage Kodridai, founder of Lampsakos, was the first to leap
from the White Rocks, located apparendy on the north shore of
the Smyrnaean Gulf, not far from Phokaia.2627We may compare, too, the
myth about the death of Theseus. He was pushed by Lykomedes and fell
into the sea from the high rocks of the island S/niros (Heraclides by way
of Pausanias 1.17.6; scholia to Aristophanes Ploutos 627). The island
derives its name Skuros from its white rocks (LSJ s.w. skuros and
skiros/skirros).27 In fact, the entire Theseus myth is replete with themes
23 For an articulate discussion of this general tendency, see Jeanmaire 1939, esp. p. 310
on the Mysteries.
24 Pace Wilamowitz 1913.27.
25 By way of Plutarch, De mulierum uirtutibus 255a-c.
26 See the commentary of Jacoby FGH 262 F 7, p. 16.
27 Gruppe 1906.585. The basic meaning of skiros hard rock* (whence chalk, gypsum')
survives in the variant reading for Iliad XXIII 332-333, preserved by Aristarchus (Scholia
Townley). Nestor is telling about a landmark, an old tree trunk (XXJII 326-328), with this
added detail:

Iliad XXIII 329
and two white rocks are propped up on either side

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

231

involving names derived from skuros/ skiros. Even the grandfather of


Theseus is Skurios (Apollodorus 3.15.3), while Theseus himself casts
Skirim o ff the Skironides petrai (Strabo 9.1.4 C391; Plutarch Theseus 10;
Pausanias 1.33.8).28 For the moment, I merely note in passing the ritual
nature of the various plunges associated with Theseus and his father"
Aigeus,29 and the implications of agonistic death and mystical rebirth in
both ritual and myth.30
A more immediate concern is that the mythological examples I have
cited so far do not attest the lovelorn theme as a feature of the plunges
from white rocks. There is, however, a more basic sexual theme associ
ated with the Thorikios petros Leap Rock of Attic Kolonos (Sophocles
Oedipus at Colonus 1595). Kolonos itself, meaning summit, is proverbi
ally white or shining-bright ( Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus
670). As for the name Thorikios, it is formally derivable from the noun
thorns semen (e.g. Herodotus 2.93.1) by way of the adjective thorikosr, the
noun thorns is in turn built on the aorist thorein of the verb thmisko
leap.31 Even the verb can have the side-meaning mount, fecundate
(Aeschylus Eumenides 660). From the form Thorikios itself, it is difficult to
ascertain whether the name may connote leaping as well as fecundating.
And yet, thematic associations of the formally related name Thorikos sug
gest that leaping is indeed involved. The provenience of Kephalos, son
In the vulgate, at Iliad XXIII 331-333, this image of two white rocks propped up on a
tree trunk is described as either a sema tomb* or a missa turning post' belonging to a
past generation (quoted at p. 215). Instead of the two verses 332-333, describing the
alternative of a turning post, Aristarchus reads the following single verse:
, Octo
or it was a skiros, but now Achilles set it up as a turning point
In the Tabulae Heracleenses (DGE no. 62.19, 144), skiros designates a rocky area unfit for
planting, on which trees grow wild. For a useful discussion of words formed with skir-, see
Robert 1885.
28 Pausanias tells us (1.33.8) that the specific name of Skiron's white rock was Molouris,
and that it was sacred to Leukothea, the White Goddess (on whom see N 1985a.79-81). It
is from the Molouris that Ixukothea flung herself into the sea with her son Melikertes
(Pausanias 1.44.7). At the top of Molouris was a shrine of Zeus Aphesios, the 'Releaser*
(Pausanias 1.44.8).
29 As for the agency of Lykamedes (Ijtkomedes) in the plunge of Theseus (Heraclides by
way of Pausanias 1.17.6; scholia to Aristophanes Plautos 627), we may compare the agency
of /.yfaurgos (Lukourgos) in the plunge of Dionysus ( IHad VI 130-141). We may note, too,
the words describing what happened to Dionysus after he dove into the sea: '
and Thetis received him in her bosom (VI 136). For the ritual
significance of the wolf theme, see Jean maire 1939.581.
30 For a detailed discussion, see Jeanmaire pp. 324-337. We may note in general the
parallelism between the procedure of initiation (ritual) and the story of death (myth). Cf.
N 1986a. For a pathfinding work on the theme of rebirth in the Odyssey, see Newton 1984.
51 DELG 444.

232

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

of Deioneus, the figure who leapt from the white rock of Leukas (Strabo
10.2.9 C452), is actually this very Thorikos, a town and deme on the
southeast coast of Attica (Apollodorus 2.4.7).52
The sexual element inherent in the theme of a white rock recurs in a
myth about Kolonos. Poseidon fell asleep in this area and had an emis
sion of semen, from which issued the horse Skinmites:
cm
, 6 323334

Scholia to Lycophron 766


Others say that, in the vicinity of the rocks at Athenian Kolonos, he
[Poseidon], falling asleep, had an emission of semen, and a horse Sktiphios
came out, who is also called Skiwnites.

The name Skironites again conjures up the theme of Theseus, son of


Poseidon, and his plunge from the white rocks of Skyros.54 This Attic
myth is parallel to the Thessalian myth of Sktiphios Skyphios:
, . . .
,
,

Scholia to Pindar Pythian 4.246


Poseidon Petraios [= of the rocks] has a cult among the Thessalians . . .
because he, having fallen asleep at some rock, had an emission of semen;
and the earth, receiving the semen, produced the first horse, whom they
called Sktiphios,

There is a further report about this first horse ever:


,

32 The leap of Kephalos into the sea was at first probably localized in Thorikos and only
later transposed to Cape Leukas. For a discussion of the political motivations for such a
mythographical transposition, see Gruppe 19)2.373.
33 The reading is preferable to , as we know from the evidence of
vase inscriptions; see Kretschmer 1894.13.
34 Gruppe 1912.372 argues that Kolonos marks one of the places claimed to be the spot
where Theseus descended into the underworld.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

233


Scholia to Pindar Pythian 4.246
and they say that there was a festival established in worship of Poseidon
Petraios at the spot where the first horse leapt forth.

The myth of Skironites/Skyphios, featuring the themes of leaping,


sexual relief, and the state of unconsciousness, may help us understand
better the puzzling verses of Anacreon, already quoted:


Anacreon PMG 376
One more time36 taking off in the air, down from the White
Rock into the dark waves do I dive, intoxicated with lust.

The theme of jumping is overt, and the theme of sexual relief is latent in
the poetry,37 while the situation is reversed in the myth. In the poem the
unconsciousness comes from what is likened to a drunken stupor; in the
myth it comes from sleep.38 As for the additional theme of a horse in the
myth, we consider again the emblem of Hagesikhoras charms, that

55 The rock associated with Skyphios is the Petri Haimonir. Apollonius Argonautica 3.1244
and scholia. Note, too, the Argive custom of sacrificing horses by throwing them into the
sea (Pausanias 8.7.2); see Nilsson 1906.71-72.
36 For an appreciation of the contextual nuances in one more time, 1 recom
mend as an exercise in associative esthetics the consecutive reading of the passages cited by
Campbell 1976.266, with reference to the triple deployment of at Sappho F
1.15,16,18 V.
37 If plunging is symbolic of sexual relief, it follows that the opposite is symbolic of sexual
frustration:

. (.. .)
Anacreon PMG 378
I flutter up toward Olympus on light wings
on account of Eros. For he [ . . . ] refuses to join me in youthful sport
38 Note the association of wine with the shade from a rock in the following words of
Hesiod: let there be a shade under the rock and
wine from Biblos ( Works and Days 589; see further at 592-596).

234

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

wondrous horse of Aleman's Laconian fantasy, who is 'from those


dreams under the Rock', (PMG 1.49).
We may note that, just as Poseidon obtains sexual relief through the
unconsciousness of sleeping at the white rocks of Kolonos, so also Zeus is
cured of his passion for Hera by sitting on the white rock of Apollo's
Leukas (Ptolemaios Chennos by way of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153
Bekker). At Magnesia, those who were hieroi sacred to Apollo would
leap from precipitous rocks into the river Lethaios (Pausanias 10.32.6).
This name is clearly derivable from lethe forgetfulness. In the
underworld, Theseus and Peirithoos sat on the throne
of iJthe (Apollodorus Epitome 1.24; Pausanias 10.29.9). I have already
quoted the passage from the Cyclops of Euripides (163-168) where get
ting drunk is equated with leaping from a proverbial white rock. We
may note the wording of the verses that immediately follow that equa
tion, describing how it feels to be in the realm of a drunken stupor:
iV eon

, *

E uripides Cyclops 169-172

where it is allowed to make this thing stand up erect,


to grab the breast and touch with both hands
the meadow59 that is made all ready. And there is dancing
and forgetting [lestis] of bad things.
Again, we see the theme of sexual relief and the key concept lestis for
getting.
In short, the White Rock is the boundary delimiting the conscious
and the unconsciousbe it a trance, stupor, sleep, or even death.
Accordingly, when the Suitors are led past the White Rock (Odyssey xxiv
11), they reach the demos onetron District of Dreams (xxiv 12) beyond
which is the realm of the dead (xxiv 14).
Even with the accumulation of this much evidence about the symbol
ism of the White Rock, it is still difficult to see how it relates to the mythi
cal figure Phaon and how he relates to Sappho. One approach that
might yield more information is to study the mythical figure Phaethon,
who shares several characteristics with Adonis and Phaon. For now, I
postpone the details and citations, offering only the essentials. Like
59 Euphemism for female genitalia.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

235

Adonis and Phaon, Phaethon is loved by Aphrodite, and like them, he is


hidden by her. Like Adonis, Phaethon dies. Like Phaon, Phaethon
means bright (for the morphology of Phdn/Phaethn, we may compare
Homeric phleg/phlegeth bum ).40 Unlike Phaon, however, about whom
we have only meager details, the Phaethon figure confronts us with a
wealth of testimony, much of it unwieldy and conflicting; we now turn to
this testimony.
In the commentary to his edition of the Hesiodic Theogony, Martin
West observes that Phaethon (line 987), like Huperion, is a hypostasis of
the sun-god Helios.41 The thematic equation of Helios with Huperion and
Phaethon is apparent in epic diction, where huperion the one who goes
above (Odyssey i 8, etc.) and phaethn the one who shines (Iliad XI 735,
etc.) are ornamental epithets of Helios. The mythological differentiation
of identities is symbolized in genealogical terms: in one case, Huperion is
the father of Helios (Odyssey xii 176, Hesiod Theogony 371-374), while in
the other, Phaethn is the son of Helios. The latter relationship is a basic
feature of the myth treated by Euripides in the tragedy Phaethon,42 What
follows is an outline of the myth as found in the Euripidean version.
Phaethon, the story goes, was raised as the son of Merops and
Klymene. His real father, however, is not the mortal Merops but the
sun-god Helios. At his mothers behest, Phaethon travels to Aithiopia,
the abode of Helios, in a quest to prove that the Sun is truly his father.
He borrows the chariot of Helios for a day; driving too near the earth, he
sets it afire. Zeus then strikes him dead with his thunderbolt, and
Phaethon falls from the sky.43
A cross-cultural perspective reveals many myths, indigenous to a wide
variety of societies, that are analogous to this Greek myth. There are
parallels, for example, in the myths of the Kwakiutl and Bella Coola Indi
ans, British Columbia. From the traditions collected by the anthropolo
gist Franz Boas,44 the following outline emerges. The Sun impregnates a
woman, who bears him a son (called Born-to-be-the-Sun in the Kwakiutl
version). When the boy goes to visit his father, he is permitted to take
the Suns place. Exceeding his limits, the boy sets the earth on fire,
whereupon he is cast down from the sky.45

40 Cf. p. 153.
41 West 1966.427.
42 Fragments edited by Diggle 1970.

4*For attestations of the same myth beyond Euripides, cf. Diggle pp. 3-32.
44 Boas 1910.123,125, 127; also Boas 1898.100-103.
45 For detailed comparisons with the Greek myth, see Frazer 1921 2:388-394, appendix
xi: Phaethon and the Chariot of the Sun.

236

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

There seems to be, a priori, a naturalistic element in these myths.


The personalized image of the suns surrogate descending from the sky
is parallel, let us say, to the actual setting of the sun. In the specific
instance of the Phaethon myth, his fall has indeed been interpreted as a
symbol of sunset.46 I intend to adjust this interpretation later, but at the
moment I am ready to argue that there is at least a thematic connection
between the Phaethon story and the actual process of sunset as described
in Greek epic diction. An essential link is the parallelism between
Okeanos and Eridanos, the river into which Phaethon falb from the sky
(Choerilus TGF 4; Ion of Chios TGF 62). By the banks of this river Eri
danos, the Daughters of the Sun mourn for the fallen Phaethon:


,



Euripides H ippolytus 735-741
Let me lift off, heading for the seawave
of the Adriatic headland and the water of Eridanos,
where the wretched girls, in sorrow for Phaethon,
pour forth into the seething swell
their shining amber rays of tears.

To understand the meaning of the Eridanos, we must review the role


of Okeanos in epic diction. Before I even begin such a review, I wish to
outline the eventual conclusion. Like the White Rock and the Gate of
the Sun, the Okeanos and Eridanos are symbolic boundaries delimiting
light and darkness, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, consciousness
and unconsciousness. Birth, death, and the concept of *nes-, which
Frame explains as return to life and light,47 are the key acts that cross
these boundaries.
46 Robert 1883.440: Allabendlich strtzt der Sonnengott im Westen nieder und alla
bendlich erglnzen das Firmament und die Berge in roter Glut, als sollte die Welt in Flam
men aufgehen. Es brauchte nun bloss dieser regelmssig wiederkehrende Vorgang als
einmaliges Ereignis aufgefasst und der Sonnengott Helios-Phaethon zu dem Heros, dem
Sonnenkind Phaethon, hypostasiert zu werden und der Mythus war fertig." Paraphrased at
p. 239.
47 See pp. 225ff.; also pp. 92ff., 126,203,218,225.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

237

The river Okeanos marks the extremities beyond Earth and seas (of.
Iliad XIV 301-302). It is from Okeanos that Helios the Sun rises (VII
421-423; cf. Odyssey xix 433-434); likewise, it is into Okeanos that the
Sun falls at sunset (VIII 485). Thus Okeanos must surround this our
world.48
The thmos spirit of one who dies is visualized as traveling to the far
west and, like the sun, plunging into Okeanos (xx 63-65).49 Bordering
on the Okeanos is the land of the Aithiopes {Iliad I 423-424, XXIII
205-207). Just as the Okeanos flows both in the extreme east and in the
extreme west, so also the land of the Aithiopes is located in the two
extremities (Odyssey i 23-24). This instance of coincidentia oppositorum, a
mythological theme where identity consists of two opposites,50 is rein
forced thematically in Odyssey xii 1 and following. In this passage there
are two opposite places that add up to the same place. From the overall
plot of the Odyssey, we know that Odysseus is wandering in the realms of
the extreme west when he comes upon the island of Aiaie (x 135). It is
from Aiaie, island of Circe, that Odysseus is sent on his way to the
underworld by traveling beyond the sea undl he and his men reach the
Okeanos (xi 21-22).51 Later, on the way back from the underworld, the
ship of Odysseus leaves the Okeanos and returns to Aiaie, which is now
described as situated not in the extreme west but in the extreme east. In
fact, Aiaie now turns out to be the abode of Eos and sunrise (xii 1-4).52
The head-spinning directional placements of mythical Okeanos in the
epic tradition lead to confused and divergent localizations in later tradidons. I cite for example Pindar Pythian 4.251, where the Argonauts
reach the Red Sea by way of Okeanos. On rational grounds, Herodotus
ridicules the concept of an Okeanos surrounding Earth (4.36.2), and he
uses the name to designate the seas in the vicinity of G ades/Cadiz
(4.8.2), thus clearly distancing himself from the mythical sense of
cosmic river* and approaching the still-current geographical sense of
ocean*.
Similarly with Eridanos, there are several exotic localizadons of this
mythical river. The poetry of Aeschylus places it in Spain and identifies
it with the Rhone (TGF 73; cf. Pliny Natural History 37.31-32),53 while
the words of Euripides, in the passage quoted above, picture it emptying
48 On the circularity of the Okeanos: pp. 238fT.; cf. N 1979a. 194, 206.
49 The passage is quoted at pp. 243-244. Cf. N 1979a.l94-195.
50 See also p. 214 above; cf. Eliade 1963.419423,428-429.
51 Cf. Frame 1978.57-60, who also discusses the thematic intrusion of a northerly direc
tion into the narrative.
52 See also Frame pp. 68-73.
53 Diggle 1970.27-32.

238

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

into the Gulf of Venice (Hippolytus 736-737). Rejecting still another


such contrivance, Herodotus specifically volunteers that Eridanos is myth
rather than reality (3.115; cf. Strabo 5.1.9 C215). The basic difference in
the post-epic treatments of Eridanos and Okeanos is that the former still
counts as a river whereas the latter, thanks to expanding geographical
information about the Atlantic, came to designate the varied concepts of
ocean in the current sense of the word.
From the standpoint of Homeric diction, however, the Okeanos is a
potamos river* (Iliad XVIII 607, Odyssey xi 639; cf. Hesiod Theogony 242);
it surrounds the Earth, and for that reason the macro- and microcosmic
visual themes on the Shield of Achilles are actually framed by a pictorial
Okeanos along the circular rim (Iliad XVIII 607-608; cf. Hesiodic Shield
314). To repeat, the Sun plunges into the Okeanos (Iliad VIII 485) and
rises from it (Iliad VII 421-423, Odyssey xix 433-434); ultimately, all rivers
and streams flow from it (Iliad XXI 195-197). With such a thematic her
itage from the Iliad and Odyssey, it is not surprising that the name
Okeanos came to designate the ocean in post-Homeric times.
From the standpoint of epic in general, the more obscure Eridanos is
thematically parallel to Okeanos. In fact, Eridanos is the son of
Okeanos, according to Hesiod (Theogony 337-338); this relationship
would be insignificant, since Okeanos sired several major rivers,54 if it
were not for other special features of Eridanos. Besides the distinction
of being mentioned straightaway in the first line of the catalogue of
rivers (Theogony 338 in 338-345), Eridanos gets the epithet bathudtnes
deep-swirling, which is otherwise reserved for Okeanos himself in the
Theogony (133; also Works and Days 171).55 There is another example of
Eridanos in a variant verse of the Iliad. For the context, I cite the follow
ing verses describing the birth of the magic horses of Achilles:


I lia d X V I

150-151

Their father was the wind Zephyros and the mother who conceived them
was the Harpy Podarge [ P o d d r g e - bright/swift of foot*],56
as she was grazing in a meadow on the banks of the stream Okeanos.

54 T h eogon y 337-345. Some of the rivers in this catalogue are real while others are only
mythical; see West 1966.259-263.
55 1 propose to study elsewhere the application of b a th u d tn e s to Alpheios (Hesiod F 193.9
MW) and to Skamandros/Xanthos (XX 73, XXI passim).
56 More on Harpies at pp. 243.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

239

There survives a variant reading for Okeanos in this passage,


namely, Eridanos. We may note the thematic parallelism of
Okeanos/ Endanos here with the Thorikios petros Leap Rock*:57 wondrous
horses were born at either place, and the name Skirmtes conjures up a
mythical White Rock.58
I turn now to parallelisms between Okeanos and Eridanos that relate
directly to the Phaethon figure. We know from Plinys testimony
(Natural History 37.31-32) that in Aeschylus treatment of the Phaethon
myth, the daughters of the Sun were turned into poplars on the banks of
the Eridanos (TGF 73), into which river Phaethon had fallen (Choerilus
TGF 4; Ion of Chios TGF 62).59 There is a parallel association in the
Odyssey, where poplars grow on the banks of the Okeanos, at the edge of
the underworld (x 508-512). Like Okeanos, Eridanos* too, is associated
with the theme of transition into the underworld. Besides the specific
instance of Phaethons death, there are also other attestations linking
Eridanos with the underworld. For example, in the Codex Vaticanus 909
of Euripides Orestes, there is a scholion to verse 981 that reads
Tantalos is suspended at the
river Eridanos.60
I conclude from such parallelisms between Eridanos and Okeanos
that the fall of Phaethon into the Eridanos is an analogue to the fall of
the sun into the Okeanos at sunset, as in Iliad VIII 485. There is also a
genealogical dimension to this mythological analogy: just as Phaethon is
the son of Helios, so also Eridanos is the son of Okeanos (as in Theogony
337-338). In a pseudo-rationalist story of the mythographer Dionysius
Scytobrachion (ii/i B.C.), who seems not concerned with the ties that
bind myth to ritual and to the general notion of the sacred, Helios him
self is cast in the role of plunging to his death in the Eridanos (Dionysius
F 6 Rsten, by way of Diodorus 3.57.5).
It does not necessarily follow, however, that the Phaethon myth
merely represents the sunset. I sympathize with those who are reluctant
to accept the theory that Phaethons fall attempts to explain in mythical
terms why the sun sinks blazing in the west as if crashing to earth in
flames and yet returns to its task unimpaired the following day.61 One
counterexplanation runs as follows: Phaethons crash is an event out of
57 See p. 231.
58 See p. 231.
59 Murr 1890.17.
60 See Dieterich 1913.27. For a more familiar reference to the underworld Eridanos, see
Virgil A e n e id 6.659 (also Servius on A e n e id 6.603). The name Eridanos also figures in the
myths about Herakles in the far west; Pherecydes FGH 3 F 16-17, 74.
61 higgle 1970.10n3, paraphrasing and rejecting the formulation of Robert 1883.440,
quoted at p. 236n46.

Phaethon, Sappho's Phaon

241

from Helios. She promises Phaethon that, if his request is granted, he


will have proof that his origin is divine ( Euripides Phaethon
48). Phaethon wavers (51) but finally decides to go to Helios (61-62).
His one request, to drive the chariot of Helios, is of course granted by
his father. Ironically, however, this proof of his divine nature, inherited
from his father, leads to fiery death. His death in turn is proof of his
human nature, inherited from his mother. The self-delusion of
Phaethon is that he overrated the relationship with his father. His real
identity is composed of two ingredients, part father = immortal, part
"mother = mortal, but his imagined identity is all "father, that is, he
imagines that he can function as an immortal since his father is immor
tal. His imagined identity impels him to assume the solar role of his
father, but his real identity, part mortal, destines him to fail and die.
Viewed from a standpoint outside the myth, Phaethon's real identity is
indeed that of the Sun, by way of hypostasis. Inside the myth, however,
this identity is simply Phaethons imagination, and his real identity is
only partially solar. The self-delusion of Phaethon is comparable to that
of another tragic figure, Oedipus. The delusion of Oedipus is that he
underrated the relationship with his wife. His real identity is both "hus
band and "son of the same woman, but his imagined identity is only
"husband.66 A basic distinction between the delusions of Phaethon and
Oedipus is that one forgets his real identity whereas the other is unaware
of it Forgetting that his mother is human, Phaethon tries to be the Sun.
Not knowing who his mother is, Oedipus marries her. In both cases, the
imagined identity is then tragically shattered.
Aside from telling us about the dilemma of being human, the
Phaethon myth also tells us something about the mystery of the sun. A
priori, we expect Helios the sun-god to be immortal. In the diction of
Greek epic, he is counted among the ranks of the immortal gods. Yet
the movements of the sun suggest the theme of death and rebirth. With
the waning of day, the old sun submerges beyond the horizon into the
west Okeanos; then, after night has passed, a new sun emerges from the
east Okeanos with the waxing of another day. Given the inescapable fact
of human mortality, the fundamental dichotomy of man vs. god extends
into the dichotomy of man - mortal vs. god = immortal, as we see
throughout Greek epic diction: athanatoi 'immortals is a synonym of
theoi 'gods. Accordingly, it becomes inappropriate to associate any
inherent death/rebirth of the sun directly with Helios the sun-god, who
661 benefit here from the discussion of Levi-Strauss 1967, who treats the Oedipus prob
lem from several vantage points, including Freuds. I should note that my use of the terms
overrate and U nderrate differs from that of Levi-Strauss.

242

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

must be immortal. The Phaethon myth fills a gap. At sunset, when the
sun undergoes a process naturally suggestive of death, it is personified
not as Helios the sun-god but as Phaethon, child of the immortal Helios,
also child of a mortal. The father Helios represents the divine per
manence of the suns cycle, while his child Phaethon represents the mor
tal aspect of the suns alternating death/rebirth cycle. This dichotomy
accommodates the traditional veneration of Helios as sun-god, still
reflected in Homeric diction. We may contrast the contrivance of
Dionysius Scytobrachion (F 6 Rsten, by way of Diodorus 3.57.5): no
longer concerned with any inherent divine element in the sun, he ima
gines Helios himself in the role of Phaethon, and we are left with a secularistic allegory about sunset.
There is another Phaethon myth, preserved in Hesiodic poetry, which
is preoccupied with both aspects of the solar cycle, not only with death
but also rebirth. In this myth Phaethon is the son not of Helios but of
Eos the dawn-goddess (Theogony 986-987). In the same context we hear
first that Eos mates with Tithonos, bearing Memnon, king of the
Aithiopes, and Emathion (984-985); then she mates with Kephalos,
bearing Phaethon (986-987); then Aphrodite mates with Phaethon
(988-991), having abducted him (990).67 The parallelism between the
mating of Eos with Kephalos and the mating of Aphrodite with their son,
Phaethon, is reinforced in the Hymn to Aphrodite: when Aphrodite
seduces Anchises, the goddess herself cites the abduction of Tithonos by
Eos as precedent (218). There are also other parallels, as when a hero
called Kleitos is abducted by Eos (Odyssey xv 250-251). Or again, the
nymph Kalypso cites the abduction of the hero Orion by Eos as a pre
cedent for her abduction of Odysseus (v 121124).68
Traditional poetic diction preserves traces, albeit indirect, of the
manner in which such abductions were envisaged. For a clearer impres
sion, though, let us first examine the following verbs that designate the
events:
Aphrodite abducts Phaethon, Theogony 990: anereipsamene 'snatching up
Eos abducts Kephalos, Euripides Hippolytus 455: anerpasen snatched up
Eos abducts Tithonos, Hymn to Aphrodite 218: herpasen snatched
Eos abducts Kleitos, Odyssey xv 250: herpasen snatched
Eos abducts Orion, Odyssey v 121: heteto seized

s* For a more detailed discussion of Hesiod Theogony 986-991, see N 1979a.l91.


68 It is pertinent to note here the argument that Kalypso is a hypostasis of Aphrodite her
self, in the aspect Melainis the black one: see Guntert 1909, esp. p. 189. For a definitive
treatment of the Kalypso figure, see Crane 1988.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

243

There is another abduction that is parallel to these, that of


Ganymedes. The parallelism is explicit in the Hymn to Aphrodite^ where
Aphrodite herself cites the fates of Ganymedes (202-217) and Tithonos
(218-238) as a precedent for the fate of Anchises. We may note that,
when the gods abduct Ganymedes for Zeus, it is for the following reason:
, iV on account of his beauty, so
that he may be with the immortals (Iliad XX 235). Similarly, when Eos
abducts Kleitos, it is for the following reason: ,
on account of his beauty, so that he may be with the
immortals (Odyssey xv 251). These thematic parallelisms of Gany
medes / Tithonos and Ganymedes/ Kleitos are important because the
verb used in the Iliad to designate the abduction of the Ganymedes
figure is anereipsanto snatched up (XX 234), aorist indicative
corresponding to the aorist participle anerdpsamene snatching up,
which designates the abduction of the Phaethon figure (Theogony 990).
Furthermore, in the Hymn to Aphrodite the verb used to designate the
abduction of Ganymedes is anerpasesnatched up* (208). Only, the sub
ject here is more specific than the general theoi gods, subject of
anereipsanto snatched up in Iliad XX 234:
]
H ym n to A ph rodite 208

where the wondrous gust of wind [ della] snatched up


[ a n e rp a se] his son

Not only here but also in every other Homeric attestation of anereipsanto
snatched up* besides Iliad XX 234, the notion gusts of wind* serves as
subject of the verb. When Penelope bewails the unknown fate of the
absent Telemachus, she says that it was thdellai gusts of wind that
anereipsanto snatched up* her son (Odyssey iv 727). When Telemachus
bewails the unknown fate of the absent Odysseus, he says that it was
hdrpuiai snatching winds, Harpies that anereipsanto snatched up his
absent father (i 241). The identical line is used when Eumaios bewails
the unknown fate of his absent master Odysseus (xiv 371).
The meaning of thuella gust of wind is certain (cf. VI
346, etc.). As for hdrpuia snatching wind, Harpy, there is further con
textual evidence from the only remaining Homeric attestation of the
verb anereipsanto snatched up*. When Penelope prays that Artemis
smite her dead and take her thmos spirit* straightaway, she adds:

,

244

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Odyssey xx 61-65
or, after that, may a gust of wind \ thuella]
carry me off, taking me down the misty paths,
and may it plunge me into the streams of the backwardflowing Okeanos.

As precedent for being snatched up by a gust of wind and cast down into
the Okeanos, she invokes the fate of Pandareos* daughters:
6*

Odyssey 66
as when gusts of wind \thellai\ seized [anelonto] the daughters of Pandareos

We may compare the use of anelonto seized* here with that of heleto
seized* when Eos abducts Orion (Odyssey v 121). After further elabora
tion in the story of the daughters of Pandareos, the central event is
presented with the following words:

Odyssey 77
then the Harpies [hdrtmiai snatching winds1] snatched up
[anereiitsanto] the girls.

So much for all the Homeric attestations of anereipsanto snatched up"


and the solitary Hesiodic attestation of anereipsamene snatching up*. As
for hdrpuia snatching wind, Harpy*, the only other Homeric attestation
besides those already surveyed is in the Iliad, where the horses of Achilles
are described as follows:
, ,

Iliad XVI 149-151


Xanthos and Balios, who flew with the gusts of wind.
Their father was the wind Zephyros and the m other who conceived them
was the Harpy [hdrpuia snatching wind*] Podargc [Poddrge =
bright/swift of foot],

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

245

as she was grazing in a meadow on the banks of the stream Okeanos.69

Finally, we may consider the Hesiodic description of the hdrpuiai


snatching winds or Harpies, two in number, in Theogony 267-269: one
is called Aello (267, from della gust of wind), and the other, kupete, the
one who is swiftly flying (267), In short, the epic attestations of hdrpuia
betray a regular association with wind. Furthermore, this noun may be
formally connected with the verb transmitted as snatched
u p and snatching up in Homer and Hesiod, respectively,
as we may infer from the variant arepuia, attested in the Etymologicum
Magnum (138.21) and on a vase inscription from Aegina.70
T h e prim e significance of this contextual survey is that it establishes
how Phaethon, Kephalos, Tithonos, Kleitos, Orion, and Ganymedes were
abducted in the poetic imagination: they were snatched away by a gust of
irind. The imagery is most explicit in the story of Ganymedes. The
immediate agent of the abduction is a gust of Wind, and Ganymedes father
does n o t know where the della gust of wind has snatched up his son,
anerpase {Hymn to Aphrodite 208). We should observe, however, that the
ultimate agent is Zeus himself, who is the subject of the verb herpasen
snatched designating the abduction of Ganymedes {Hymn to Aphrodite
202-203). As compensation for the abduction of Ganymedes, Zeus gives
to the boys father a team of wondrous horses {Hymn to Aphrodite
210-211), who are described as having/^/ of wind ( 217).
In this instance, both themes, of taking and giving in return, center on
the elem ent of wind.
After having ascertained how the likes of Phaethon were abducted, we
may still ask where they were taken. The most explicit Homeric imagery
about this aspect of thuellai/ hdrpuiai, the snatching gusts of wind, occurs
in the passage already quoted from the Odyssey, where Penelope wishes
for a gust of wind to snatch her up and drop her into the Okeanos (xx
63-65) .71 The immediate agent is the thuella gust of wind (xx 63), but the
ultimate agents are the gods themselves (xx 79). In this connection, we
may note again that it is on the banks of the Okeanos that the hdrpuia
Harpy called Podarge [Poddrge = bright/swift of foot] gave birth to
the wind-horses of Achilles {Iliad XVI 149-151). And we may also note
again that the variant reading for O keanos at IliadXVI 151 is
Eridanos.72

69 Cf. p. 238.
70 Kretschmer 1894.208-209.
71 See pp. 243-244.
72 Cf. 238-239, 244-245.

246

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

By dying, Penelope will have the experience of having her thumos


spirit* plunge into the Okeanos (Odyssey xx 65), but later there is a
further detail, that she will have gone underneath the earth (xx 80-81).
These themes of (1) falling into Okeanos and (2) going underneath the
earth also apply to the movements of the sun itself (e.g. Iliad VIII 485,
Odyssey x 190-193).73 For humans, Okeanos has a funcdon that can be
described as follows: when you die, a gust of wind carries your spirit to
the extreme west, where it drops you into the Okeanos; when you
traverse the Okeanos, you reach the underworld, which is underneath
the earth. For the sun itself, Okeanos has an analogous function: when
the sun reaches the extreme west at sunset, it likewise drops into the
Okeanos; before the sun rises in the extreme east, it stays hidden under
neath the earth. When the sun does rise, it emerges from the Okeanos
in the extreme east {Iliad VII 421-423; cf. Odyssey xix 433). Thus the
movements of the sun into and from the Okeanos serve as a cosmic
model for death and rebirth. From the human standpoint, the sun dies
in the west in order to be reborn in the east. Since Okeanos is themati
cally parallel with Eridanos, the sunset theme of a dead Phaethon falling
into Eridanos implies an inverse sunrise theme of a reborn Phaethon
emerging from Eridanos.
In this respect, a detail about Phaethons m other Eos the Dawn*
becomes especially significant. Homeric Eos has a fixed epithet eri-geneia
early-generated (or early-generating) that is exclusively hers (e.g.
Odyssey ii 1). This epithet is built on what survives as the old locative
adverb eri early, and Homeric diction actually preserves eri in colloca
tion with es dawn (xix 320). This form en-geneia is comparable to EndanoSy the first part of which is likewise built on en\ the second part
-danos seems to mean dew or fluid (cf. Indie danu- fluid, dew*).74
We come now to the association of Phaethon with Aphrodite in Theogony 988-991. It arises, I propose, from a sexual theme implicit in a solar
transition from death to rebirth. In the logic of the myth, it appears that
the setting sun mates with the goddess of regeneration so that the rising
sun may be reborn. If the setting sun is the same as the rising sun, then
the goddess of regeneration may be viewed as both mate and mother.
Such an ambivalent relationship actually survives in the hymns of the
Rig-VedOy where the goddess of solar regeneration, the dawn Usas, is
the wife or bride of the sun-god Srya (1.115.1, 7.75.5, etc.) as well as
his mother (7.63.3, 7.78.3).75 In the latter instance, the incestuous
73 Cf. pp. 98-99. For more on O d yssey x 199-193, see N 1979a.329-321.
74 Gntert 1923.36 1. The semantics of the form E r i- d a n o s are pertinent to the work of
Boedeker 1984.
75 For more on Indie sun-gods, sec pp. 931.

Phaethon, Sappho's Phaon

247

implications are attenuated by putting Usas in the plural, representing


the succession of dawns; similarly, Usas in the plural can designate the
wives of Srya (4.5.13). Yet even if each succeeding dawn is wife of the
preceding dawns son, the husband and son are always one and the same
Srya, and the basic theme of incest remains intact.
This comparative evidence from the Rig-Veda is important for under
standing the Greek evidence, because Indie Srya- *Sun and UsdsDawn1 are formally cognate with Greek Helios Sun* and Eos Dawn;76
furthermore, the epithets of Usas in the Rig-Veda, divd(s) duhitdr- and
duhitdr-divds, both meaning Daughter of the Sky', are exact formal cog
nates of the Homeric epithets Dios thugdter and ihugdter Dios, meaning
Daughter of Zeus1.77 The Homeric hexameter preserves these epithets
only in the following patterns:
A. - GO- GO- I |
B. - u | co cc
C. - GO - CO - u I w u - ^

6 times
8 times
18 times

We see from this scheme that it is cumbersome for the meter to accom
modate the name of Eos, , in a position contiguous with these
epithets. Thus it is not surprising that Eos is not combined with these
epithets anywhere in attested Greek epic, despite the comparative evi
dence that such a combination had once existed, as we see from the sur
vival of the Indie cognates divd(s) duhitdr- and duhitdr- divds in the RigVeda.
Within the framework of the Greek hexameter, we may have expected
at least one position, however, where the name of Eos could possibly
have been combined with thugdter Dios Daughter of Zeus1:
D. * -c o -c o -c o -|

And yet, when Dawn1 occupies the final portion of the hexameter
and when it is preceded by an epithet with the metrical shape u ~ u u,
this epithet is regularly rosy-fingered1 (or rosy-toed1), not
= thugdter Dios Daughter of Zeus1. I infer that the epithet
= thugdter Dios Daughter of Zeus in position D must have
been ousted by the fixed epithet rosy-fingered1, as in the
familiar verse

76 Schmitt 1967 ch. 4.


77 Schmitt pp. 169-173.

248

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

8
I lia d

I 477, etc.

when early-born rosy-fingered Dawn appeared .. .

In short, for both metrical and formulaic reasons, Greek epic fails to
preserve the combination of Es Dawn* with Dios thugter and thugter
Dios, meaning Daughter of Zeus.78 By contrast, when the name
Aphrodite occupies the final position of the hexameter, her fixed epithet
is Dios thugter.
X X u I
I lia d

III 374, etc.

. . . Daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite

From the standpoint of comparative analysis, then, Aphrodite is a paral


lel of Eos in epic diction. Furthermore, from the standpoint of internal
analysis, Aphrodite is a parallel of Eos in epic theme. Just as Eos abducts
Tithonos (Hymn to Aphrodite 218), Kleitos (Odyssey xv 250), Orion (v
121), and Kephalos (Euripides Hippolytus 455), so also Aphrodite
abducts Phaethon (Theogony 990). When Aphrodite seduces Anchises,
she herself cites the abduction of Tithonos by Eos for an actual pre
cedent (Hymn to Aphrodite 218-238), as we have already seen.
Throughout the seduction episode, Aphrodite is called Dios thugter
Daughter of Zeus {Hymn to Aphrodite 81, 107, 191).
The archaic parallelism of Eos and Aphrodite suggests that Aphrodite
became a rival of Eos in such functions as that of Dios thugter Daughter
of Zeus. From the comparative evidence of the Rig-VedOj we would
expect Eos to be not only mother but also consort of the Sun. There is
no such evidence in Greek epic for either Helios or any hypostasis such
as the Phaethon figure. Instead, the Hesiodic tradition assigns Aphro
dite as consort of Phaethon, while Eos is only his mother (Theogony
986-991). In other words, the Hesiodic tradition seems to have split the
earlier fused roles of mother and consort and divided them between Eos
781 disagree with Schmitts statement that Eos is Daughter of Helios (pp. 172-173).
Technically, she does appear as Daughter of the Sun in Theogony 371-374, but here the
name of her father is Hyperion; as for Helios, he is her brother (ibid.). For the image
of Eos as Daughter of the Sun, we may compare the special image of Usas as Daughter of
the Sun-God Srya in the Rig-Veda (2.23.2), as distinct from the usual image of Usas as
Daughter of the Sky-God Dyaus, diva(s) duhitdr- (Rig-Veda, passim); the noun dydus sky,
personified as the Sky-God Dyaus, is cognate of Greek Zetis.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

249

and Aphrodite respectively. This way, the theme of incest could be


neatly obviated.
There are, however, instances in Homeric diction where the relation
ship of Eos and Phaethon is directly parallel to the relationship of Usas
and Srya in the Rig-Veda. We have already noted the fact that phaethn
the one who shines is an ornamental epithet of Helios (Iliad XI 735,
etc.). Moreover, the name Phaethn is assigned to one of the two horses
of Eos:


Odyssey xxiii

246

Ldmpos and Phaethon, the horses [poloi] that draw Eos


We may note that Lampos, the name of her other horse, is also associated
with the notion of brightness.79 There is a striking parallel in the RigVeda: Srya the sun-god is called the bright horse, svetdm .. . divam, of
the dawn-goddess Usas (7.77.3; cf. 7.78.4).
There is also, within Greek epic, an internal analogue to the combina
tion of Phaethn and Ldmpos in Odyssey xxiii 246. The names for the
daughters of Helios the sun-god are Phaethousa and Lampetie (Odyssey xii
132), which are feminine equivalents of Phaethn and Ldmpos,80 Again we
may note a striking Indie parallel: in the Rig-Veda the name for the
daughter of Surya- the sun-god is Srya (1.116.17), which is a feminine
equivalent of the masculine name.
The comparative evidence of this contextual nexus suggests that the
Horses of the Dawn in Odyssey xxiii 246 had once been metaphorical
aspects of the Sun. As in the Rig-Veda, the Sun could have been called
the bright stallion of the Dawnby such names as Phaethn or Ldmpos.
Once the metaphor is suspended, then the notion Horse of the Dawn
must be taken at face value: if the Dawn has a horse, she will actually
require not one but two for a chariot team, and the two kindred solar
aspects Phaethn bright and Ldmpos bright will do nicely as names for
two distinct horses. Yet the surviving role of Phaethousa and Lampetie as
daughters of Helios serves as testimony for the eroded personal connota
tions of the names Phaethn or Ldmpos. By contrast, the metaphor is
maintained in the Rig-Veda, where Srya the sun-god is both bridegroom
79 We may note, too, that Odyssey xxiii 246 is the only place in either the Iliad or the Odys
sey where a solar deity has a chariot team.
80 For the morphology of Lampetie, see N 1970.43-44nl21; also Frame 1978.135-137 on
Indie Nasatyau.

250

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

and horse of the dawn-goddess Usas. There is even a special word that
incorporates both roles of Srya, namely, mdiya- (1.115.2, 7.76.3).81 In
fact, the metaphorical equation of stallion and bridegroom is built into
various rituals of Indie society, such as those of initiation, and a key to
this equation is the same word mdiya- and its Iranian cognates.8182
Significantly, there is a corresponding Greek attestation of such a
metaphorical equation, in the hymenaeus wedding-song of Euripides
Phaethon 227-235, where the polos horse of Aphrodite (234) is the hero
Hymen himself.83 We have seen the same word p o lo s designating the
horses of Eos, Phaethon and Lampos (Odyssey xxiii 246).84 Hymens
epithet newly yoked in Euripides Phaethon 233 marks him as
Aphrodites bridegroom (compare the diction in Aeschylus Persians
514-515; Euripides Medea 804-805; TGF 821). As for the appositive
offspring of your wedding (Phaethon 235), it conveys that
Hymen is not only the bridegroom but also the son of Aphrodite. We
may note in this connection that the hymenaeus wedding-song in
Phaethon 227-235 is being sung in honor of Phaethon, and that his
bride-to-be is in all probability a Daughter of the Sun.8586Finally, we may
note that Aphrodite functions in this context as the
celestial daughter of Zeus (Phaethon 228).
Besides Eos and Aphrodite, other Homeric goddesses, too, qualify as
Dios thugdter/ thugdter Dios Daughter of Zeus: they are Athena (Iliad IV
128, etc.), the Muse of the Odyssey (i 10), Ate (Iliad XIX 91), Persephone
(Odyssey xi 217), Artemis (xx 61), and Helen (iv 227).86 It is beyond the
scope of this investigation to examine the contexts of Dios
thugater/ thugdter Dios Daughter of Zeus and to correlate them with the
contexts of the Rig-Vedic cognate divd(s) duhitdr-/ duhitdr- divas
Daughter of Sky, which applies only to Usas the dawn-goddess.87
Instead, I confine myself here to observations that relate to the theme of
abduction.
The Rig-Vedic Usas is an overtly beneficent goddess, well known for
her function of dispelling the darkness (1.92.5, 2.34.12, etc.). Yet her
epithet divd(s) duhitdr-/ duhitdr- divds is ambivalent. In a hymn that is
part of the Vedic liturgical canon for animal sacrifice, Usas combined
81 The Indie noun mdrya- may be pertinent to the semantics of Greek merops, as discussed
alp . 198nl20.
82 Wikander 1938.22-30,81-85, esp. p. 84.
85 Diggle 1970.148-160. The passage is quoted in N 1979a. 199-200.
84 See p. 249.
85 So Diggle 1970.158-160.
86 On the divine aspects of Helen in Homeric diction and on the relationship of Dios
thugdter/ thugdter Dios Daughter of Zeus' to Dios kouroi 'sons of Zeus', see Clader 1976.
87 For a pathfinding survey, see Boedeker 1974.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

251

r ith th e N ight are together called divo duhitr (Rig-Veda 10.70.6). In


\ t h e r w ords, both Dawn and Night are Daughters of the Sky, Indie Dydus
<c o g n a te o f Greek Zeus). When Dawn drives away the Night, the latter is
Actually called her sister (Rig-Veda 1.92.11, 4.52.1). There is a parallel
am b iv alen ce in the cognate epithet Dios thugdter/ thugdter Dios. In one
;:nstance, it can describe a beneficent Athena who has just rescued
V ien elao s and who is compared to a mother fostering her child (Iliad IV
1 28). This function of the Dios thugdter/ thugdter Dios as patroness of the
P ie r o is typical.88 In another instance, however, the epithet describes a
m a le fic e n t Persephone, goddess of the dead (Odyssey xi 217). In still
a n o t h e r instance, it describes Artemis when Penelope wants to be shot
a n d killed by her (xx 61).
A lthough the epithet Dios thugdter/thugdter Dios does not survive in
co m b in atio n with Eos, the goddess herself is in fact likewise ambivalent.
H o m eric diction features her snatching up youths as if she were some
H arpy, and yet she gives them immortality* For review, the example of
Kleitos will suffice (xv 250-251).89 Such an ambivalence inherent in the
Eos figure is so uncomfortable that it tends to be attenuated in the dic
tion. For instance, the verb used to describe the abduction of Orion by
Eos is n o t the concretely violent herpasen snatched* but the more
abstract heleto seized (Odyssey v 121).90 Once the wording herpasen
snatched is removed, the connotation of death from Harpies disap
pears and a new theme is introduced, death from Artemis (Odyssey v
121-124). We may note that death is at least not violent at the hands of
Artemis ( with her gentle darts v 124). Similarly,
when Penelope wants to be killed by Artemis, the death is implicitly gen
tle (xx 61-65).
T he alternative to a gentle death from Artemis is a violent abduction
by a thuella gust of wind (Odyssey xx 63), the action of which is
described as anarpdxsa snatching up* (ibid.). As precedent for being
abducted by a gust of wind and plunged into the Okeanos, Penelopes
words evoke the story of the daughters of Pandareos, abducted by thdellai
gusts of wind (xx 66), the action of which is described as anebnto
seized* (ibid.). This mention of abduction is followed by a description
of how the daughters of Pandareos had been preserved by the Olympian
goddesses (xx 67-72); the preservation of the girls is then interrupted by
death, at the very mom ent that Aphrodite is arranging for them to be
married (xx 73-74). Death comes in the form of abduction by hdrpuiai
88 Other examples: Athena/Odysseus
374), Aphrodite/Aeneas (V 312).
80 Sec p. 242.
90 Sec p. 242.

( O d yssey

xiii 369), Aphrodite/Alexander

( I lia d

III

252

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

snatching winds (xx 77), the action of which is now described as


anereipsantosnatched up (ibid.).91
In this story about the daughters of Pandareos (Odyssey xx 66-81), we
see a sequence of preservation followed by abduction /death.92 In the story
about Orion and Eos (v 121124), by contrast, the pattern is abduc
tion/preservation followed by death, in that Eos abducts and preserves the
hero while Artemis arranges for his death.93 Finally, the story about
Aphrodite and Phaethon (Hesiod Theogony 986-991) presents yet
another pattern, that of abduction/death followed by preservation.9^ In each
of these narrative patterns, we see various patterns of differentiation in
the ambivalent function of Eos as the undifferentiated agent of abduc
tion, death, and preservation.
The abduction of Phaethon by Aphrodite is most directly comparable
to the abduction of Kleitos by Eos (Odyssey xv 251-252), where again we
see the pattem abduction /death followed by preservation. The Kleitos figure
is represented as son of Mantios (xv 249) and grandson of the seer
Melampous (xv 242). As Frame has shown, the Melampous myth centers
on the theme of retrieving the Cattle of the Sun.95 The solar function of
the Melampous figure and his generic affinity with the Kleitos figure
imply a solar affinity as well. The wording herpasen for the abduction of
Kleitos at Odyssey xv 251 implies that he was taken by a maleficent Harpy
and dropped into the Okeanos. This theme of death is parallel to sun
set. On the other hand, the subject of hbpasen is Eos herself, and the
theme of sunrise is parallel to rebirth. Since the abductor of Kleitos is
represented as the Dawn, it is at least implicit that Kleitos is to be reborn
like the Sun and thus preserved.
So long as the Dawn is present, the day waxes. Once the Sun reaches
noon, however, the Dawn ceases and the day wanes. This vital role of
Eos is explicit in Homeric diction (e.g. Iliad XX 66-69). Implicitly, the
Sun is united with the light of Dawn until noon; afterwards, the Sun des
cends into the Okeanos, only to be reborn the next day. In the story of
Eos and Kleitos a parallel death and rebirth are implied. The sequence
of events, to repeat, is abduction/death followed by preservation?^ In the
For further details on this difficult passage concerning the daughters of Pandareos,
xx 65-81, see N 1979a.195 25n2.
92 Further discussion at N p. 201 37n3.
93 More detailed discussion at N pp. 201-203.
N pp. 191-192. As for the Tithonos story in the H y m n to A p h r o d ite ; the sequence is
suspended.* a b d u c tio n p r e s e r v a tio n , w ith n o d e a th e n s u in g . Appropriately, Tithonos there
fore never rises from the Okeanos, as would a reborn Sun, Whenever Eos rises, she leaves
Tithonos behind ( I l i a d X I X 1-2 vs. O d y ss e y v 1-2; H y m n to A p h r o d ite 227, 236).
93 Frame 1978.91-92. Suffice it here to note the suggestive verses at O d y ssey x v 235-236.
96 See immediately above.
O d y ssey

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

253

Orion story (Odyssey v 121-124), on the other hand, the sequence is the
inverse; abduction/preservation followed by death,97 We may note that
Orions relation to the Dawn is the inverse of the Suns. Translated into
the symbolism o f celestial dynamics, O rions movements are accordingly
astral, not solar, and we see an astral representation of the Orion figure
already in Homeric poetry (v 274; Iliad XVIII 488).98*Like the Sun, the
constellation Orion rises from the Okeanos and sets in it (v 275, Iliad
XVIII 489), but, unlike the Sun, it rises and sets at nighttime, not day
time. In the summer, at threshing time, Orion starts rising before Dawn
(Hesiod Works and Days 598-599). In the winter, at ploughing time,
Orion starts setting before Dawn {Works and Days 615616)1 In summer
days the light o f Dawn catches up with the rising Orion, and he can be
her consort in the daytim e." In winter days the light of Dawn arrives too
late to keep Orion from setting into the Okeanos. One related star that
does not set, however, is Arktos (v 275 = Iliad XVIII 489). The Arktos
Bear watches Orion, dokeuei (v 274 = Iliad XVIII 488), and the verb
dokmei implies doom. In Homeric diction it is used when marksmen or
savage beasts take aim at their victims (Iliad XIII 545, XVI 313, XX
340).100 As for the Arktos Bear, the name implies the goddess
Artemis.101 In other words, the astral passages of Odyssey v 273-275 and
Ikad XVIII 487-489 implicitly repeat the theme of Orions dying at the
hands of Artemis, explicit in Odyssey v 121-124.102 The latter passage
involves two goddesses, a beneficent Eos and a maleficent Artemis.103 We
may contrast the passage about Kleitos, involving an ambivalent Eos who
is both maleficent and beneficent (Odyssey xv 251-252).104 The theme of
death is implicit in herpasen snatched (251), while the theme of preser
vation is explicit in iv so that he may be with the
immortals (252).
Similarly, Aphrodite is ambivalent in the Hesiodic passage about
Phaethon ( Theogony 989-991). Again, the theme of death is implied in
anereipsamene snatching up (990). The epithet dainwn supernatural
being (991), on the other hand, implies divine preservation, as we see
from the context of daimn in Works and Days 109-126.105 We may
97See p.252.
98More detailed discussion in N 1979a.201-203.
"This theme is pertinent to the name rin ( Oarion), which seems to be connected with
Mrwife, iaros companionship, keeping company, etc.
190Survey of contexts in N 1979a.202 39nl.
191The argument is presented at N p. 202.
197On the implications of the Orion myth for the fate of Odysseus in the Odyssey, see N
PP. 202-203. See also p. 207nl5 above.
*0i Seep. 251.
194See p.242.
05Further details at N 1979a. 190-192.

254

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

compare, too, the preservation of the hero Erechtheus by Athena in Iliad


II 547-551, where the goddess is explicitly described as Dios thugdter
Daughter of Zeus (548). The preservation of both Phaethon and
Erechtheus is represented in these passages in terms of hero cult.106 If
the hero is situated in a sacred precinct and if he is propitiated at set
times, then he is being treated like a god and it follows that he must be
like a god; thus he must be in some sense alive.107 From the standpoint
of myth, he is explicitly dead, but from the standpoint of cult, he is impli
citly reborn and thus alive. Myth has it that, like Phaethon, Erechtheus,
too, had once been struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Hyginus
46). It is clear that Erechtheus has an underworld phase, in that he is
described as hidden in a . . . chasm of the earth* (Euri
pides Ion 281). Similarly, the adjective mukhios secreted describing
Phaethon in Theogony 991 implies a stay in the underworld, as we see
from the usage of muhhos secret place in Theogony 119. As for Aphro
dite, the goddess who abducted Phaethon and made him mukhiost she
herself is known as Mukhi in the context of one of her cults (as at
Gyaros: IG XII v 651; cf. Aelian De natura animalium 10.34).108 Another
such cult title of Aphrodite, again implying an underworld phase, is
Melaints the dark one (Pausanias 2.2.4, 8.6.5, 9.27.5). In the Phaethon
myth preserved by Euripides, even the m others name Klumene connotes
the underworld. The masculine equivalent, Klumenos, was a euphemistic
epithet of Hades himself, as in the epichoric cults of Hermione
(Pausanias 2.35.9). Behind the Hermionian precinct of Khthoni the
chthonic one* is the Place of Klmenos\ and in this place is a
chasm of the earth through which Herakles brought up the Hound of
Hades (Pausanias 2.35.10). Accordingly, I am inclined to view
Phaethons Klumene as a hypostasis of chthonic Aphrodite.
To sum up: like Eos, Aphrodite is both maleficent and beneficent in
the role of abductor, since she confers both death and preservation.
When Phaethons parents are Helios and Klymene, the stage is set for his
death, implicit in the Klymene figure. When his parents are Kephalos
and Eos, the stage is set for both his death and his preservation, implicit
in the Eos figure as well as in her alternate, Aphrodite. Thus, I disagree
with the spirit of the claim that on the evidence available to us the son
of Helios and the son of Eos and Cephalus must be pronounced entirely
different persons.109 Such an attitude is overly prosopographical. We
106 Npp. 190-192.
107 Rohde 1898 1:189-199. The rationalizations about priest-kings in Famell 1921.17
amount to an exercise in cuhcmcrism.
108 Cf. also GOntcrt 1909.185 on the mystical function of the word m u k h o s secret place
and its relation to the name K a lu p s o in the O dyssey.
109 Digglc 1970.15n3.

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

255

are dealing not with different persons, but with different myths, cognate
variants, centering on the inherited personification of a solar child and
consort.
Since the epithet mukhios secreted* as applied to Phaethon in Theogony 991 implies that he was hidden by Aphrodite, we see here an impor
tant parallelism with Phaon and Adonis, who were also hidden by Aphro
dite.110 Just as Phaethon implicitly attains preservation in the cult of
Aphrodite, so also Adonis in the cult of Apollo Erithios.111 As for Phaon,
he explicitly attains preservation in the myth where he is turned into a
beautiful young man by Aphrodite (Sappho F 211 V). From the myths
of Phaethon, we see that the themes of concealment and preservation
are symbolic of solar behavior, and we may begin to suspect that the
parallel myths of Phaon and Adonis are based on like symbolism.
The very name Phdon, just like Phaethn, suggests a solar theme.112 His
occupation too, that of ferryman (Sappho F 211 V), is a solar theme, as
we see from the studies of Hermann Guntert on other mythological fer
rymen.113 As an interesting parallel to Phaon, I single out a solar deity in
the Rig-Veda, Psan,114 who regularly functions as a psychopomp and
who is at least once featured as traveling in golden boats (6.58.3); he is
the wooer of his mother (6.55.5) and the lover of his sister (6.55.4, 5). A
frequent and exclusive epithet of Psan is ghmi- glowing, bright*, com
parable in meaning to Phdon and Phaethn.
In light of these characteristics associated with the specialized Indie
sun-god Psan, we may note that the standard Indie sun-god Srya in the
Rig-Veda is both son and consort of the dawn-goddess Usas (8.63.3,
7.78.3; 1.115.2, 7.75.5, etc.).115 The fathers* of Psan, the solar Divine
Twins known as the Asvin-s (Rig-Veda 10.85.14), share with Psan his
affinity with boats; they, too, are described as traveling about in boats
(1.116.3).116 The Asvin-s are described as born differently (nanjtdu
5.73.4) and born here and there (ihehajta 1.181.4); one is the son of
Sumakha- Good Warrior* and the other, the son of Dydus Sky*.117 In
Yaska (Nirukta 12.1), a passage is quoted about the Asvin-s where one is
110 See pp. 228-229.
111 See pp. 229-230.
U2 See p. 235.
113 See csp. Guntert 1909 and 1923.273. For the problem of the Asvin-s (on whom sec
also pp. 112-113), see immediately below.
114 On whom see pp. 97fif.
115 In the Greek tradition, we have seen that Eos can be represented as the sister of Helios
(Hesiod T h eo g o n y 371-374). See p. 248.
116 More on the Aivin-s at pp. 92-93, 112-113.
117 The adjectives m a k h d - and s iim a k h a - in Indie poetry serve as epithets denoting the
heroic aspect of both men and gods.

256

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

called the son of Night, the other the son of Dawn. I view these images
as solar symbols of day/night, bright/dark, im m ortal/m ortal, alive/
dead. When the two Asvin-s are treated as a pair, on the other hand,
only one side of their split personalities is revealed.118 Accordingly, the
two of them together are the sons of Dydus Sky (1.182.1, etc.) and the
sons of Usas (3.39.3, to be supplemented by the comments of Syana
concerning this passage).
As solar figures, Asvin-s also represent the morning /evening star.119
The female solar divinity Sry, Daughter of the Sun, relates to the
Asvin-s in their astral function, much as Usas the dawn-goddess relates to
them in their solar function. The Asvin-s are Srys two husbands
(4.43.6). As Douglas Frame has argued, the Twins epithet Nasatyau
means retrievers, because they retrieved the light of the sun.120 The
essence of the Nsatyau theme is that the morning star, as it rises from
the horizon, recovers* the light of the sun, represented by Sry. The
night before, the evening star had dipped beyond the horizon, plunging
after the sinking sun, in order to effect its recovery, another morning, by
the alter ego, the morning star.121
The Indie Asvin-s are parallel to the Greek Dioskouroi, Dios kouroi
sons of Zeus, Dioscuri.122 Just as the Asvin-s are named after the word
for horse, d s v a the Dioskouroi are known as leukoploi bright horses*
(e.g. Pindar Pythian 1.66).123124We may note that the Dioskouroi have a
horse called Hdrpagos snatcher, son of Poddrga bright/swift of foot
(Stesichorus PMG 178.1); the latter name may be compared with that of
the Harpy Poddrge = bright/swift of foot* who bore the horses of
Achilles at the banks of Okeanos/Eridanos (Iliad XVI 150-151).124 We
may note, too, a Laconian ensemble of priestesses called Leukipptdes
bright horses (Pausanias 3.16.1), who are associated with the cult of
Helen (cf. Euripides Helen 1465-1466); Helen in this context functions
as a dawn-goddess, analogous to or perhaps even identical with the
dawn-goddess Atis in Aleman PMG 1.87.125
118 For more on this characteristic of the Divine Twins, see Davidson 1987.103-104; cf.
Wikander 1957.
119A central point argued by Gntert 1923.
120 Frame 1978.134-152; see pp. 92-93,112-113 above; see also Gntert p. 268.
121 For a discussion of the Indie equivalent to the Greek Okeanos beyond the horizon, see
pp. 98ff.
122 See Gntert 1923.260-276.
128 On the Old English traditions about the twin brothers M en g est, cognate of German
H e n g s t stallion*, and H o r s a , as in latter-day English h orse , who reportedly led the Saxons in
their invasion of the British Isles, sec Ward 1968.54-55 and Joseph 1983. On the Iranian
L o h rd s p and G o sh td sp , a Dioscuric father-son dyad in the S h h n m a of Ferdowsi, where the
element -a s p is cognate with Indie d s v a - horse*, see Davidson 1987.
124 See pp. 238-239, 244-245.
125 For details and discussion, see Calame 1977 1:326-330, 2:124-125, who also argues

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

257

To return to our current center of attention, the solar figure Phaon in


the poetics o f Sappho: another solar theme associated with Phaon is his
plunge from a white rock, an act that is parallel to the solar plunge of
Phaethon into the Eridanos. We have seen that the Eridanos is an analo
gue of the Okeanos, the boundary delimiting light and darkness, life and
death, wakefulness and sleep, consciousness and unconsciousness* We
have also seen that the White Rock is another mythical landmark delimit
ing the same opposites and that these two landmarks are mystical
coefficients in Homeric diction (Odyssey xxiv 11). Even the Phaethon
figure is connected with the White Rock, in that his father Kephalos is
supposed to have jum ped off Gape Leukas (Strabo 10.2.9 C452)126 and is
connected with the placename Thorikos (Apollodorus 2.4.7).127 The
theme of plunging is itself overtly solar, as we see from Homeric diction:
'
I lia d V

III 485

and the bright light of Helios plunged into the Okeanos.


In the Epic Cycle the lover of Klymene is not Helios but Kephalos son
of Deion ( Nostoi F 4 Allen),128 a figure whose name
matches that of Kephalos son of Deioneus, the one who leapt from the
white rock of Leukas (Strabo 10.2.9 C452) and who hails from Thorikos
(Apollodorus 2.4.7).129
If indeed the Phaon and Adonis myths operate on solar themes, it
remains to ask about the relevance of Aphrodite. Most important of all,
how do we interpret Aphrodites plunge from the White Rock? We hear
of her doing so out of love for Adonis (Ptolemaios Chennos by way of
Photius Bibliotheca 152-153 Bekker),130 and the act itself may be con
nected with her known function as substitute for the Indo-European
dawn-goddess of the Greeks, Eos. As we have seen, Aphrodite has even
usurped the epithet of Eos, Dios thugdter Daughter of Sky, as well as the
roles that go with the epithet. From the Homeric standpoint, Aphrodite
is actually the Dios thugdter par excellence, in that even her mothers
that the theme of radiant horses is a sacred symbol for the dawn, a cult topic shared by the
figure of Helen with the Leukippides, who in myth arc consorts of the Dioskouroi, brothers
of Helen.
126 See p. 230.
127 See p. 232.
128 The son of Klymene and Kephalos is named as IphikJos { N o s to i F 4 Allen).
129 See p. 232.

258

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

name is Dione (Iliad V 370, 381). It still remains, however, to explain


Aphrodites plunge from the White Rock as a feature characteristic of a
surrogate Indo-European dawn-goddess.
Here we may do well to look toward Aphrodites older, Near Eastern,
heritage. As the Greek heiress to the functions of the Semitic fertility
goddess Istar, Aphrodite has as her astral symbol the planet of Istar,
better known to us as Venus.151152*The planet Venus is of course the same
as Hesperos the Evening Star and Heosphoros (dawn-bearer, Eos bearer)
the Morning Star. In the evening Hesperos sets after sunset; in the
morning Heosphoros rises before sunrise. We have the testimony of
Sapphos near contemporary, Ibycus (PMG 331), that Hesperos and
Heosphoros were by this time known to be one and the same. From the
Indo-European standpoint, on the other hand, Hesperos and Heos
phoros must be Divine Twins, as represented by the Dioskouroi, the
Greek Sons of Zeus who are cognates of the Indie Asvin-s.132 At the bat
tle of Aigospotamoi, there is supposed to have been an epiphany of the
Dioskouroi in the form of stars, on either side of Lysanders admiral
ship; after their victory the Spartans dedicated two stars of gold at Delphi
(Plutarch Lysander 12, 18).
In the poetics of Sappho, the Indo-European model of the Morning
Star and Evening Star merges with the Near Eastern model of the Planet
Aphrodite. On the one hand, Sapphos Hesperos is a nuptial star, as we
know directly from the fragment 104 V and indirectly from the cele
brated hymenaeus wedding-song of Catullus 62, Vesper adesL Since
Hesperos is the evening aspect of the astral Aphrodite, its setting into
the horizon, beyond which is Okeanos, could have inspired the image of
a plunging Aphrodite. If we imagine Aphrodite diving into the Okeanos
after the sun, it follows that she will rise in the morning, bringing after
her the sun of a new day. This image is precisely what the Hesiodic scho
lia preserve to explain the myth of Aphrodite and Phaethon:
,
Scholia to Hesiod

Theogony 990

the star of Eos, the one that brings back to light and life [verb -] the
day and Phaethon, Aphrodite155

For the mystical meaning of an-g as bring back the light and life [from
151 Scherer 1953.78-04,90,92,94.
152 Guntert 1924.266-267. Sec pp. 255ff.
155 Both Wilamowitz 1913.37n3 and Diggle 1970.l5nl find this statement incomprehensi
ble.

Phaethon, Sappho's Phaon

259

the dead], I cite the contexts of this verb in Hesiod Theogony 626 (
into the light), Plato Republic 521c ( to light), Aeschylus
Agamemnon 1025 ( from the realm of the dead), and so
on.154
From Menander F 258K, we infer that Sappho spoke of herself as div
ing from the White Rock, crazed with love for Phaon. The implications
of this image are cosmic. The I of Sapphos poetry is vicariously pro
jecting her identity into the goddess Aphrodite, who loves the native Lesr
bian hypostasis of the Sun-God himself. By diving from the White Rock,
the I" of Sappho does what Aphrodite does in the form of Evening Star,
diving after the sunken Sun in order to retrieve him, another morning,
in the form of Morning Star. If we imagine her pursuing the Sun the
night before, she will be pursued in turn the morning after. There is a
potential here for amor uersus, a theme that haunts the poetry of Sappho
elsewhere:
,
Sappho F 1.21 V

for even if she now flees, soon she will pursue

Sapphos special association with Aphrodite is apparent throughout


her poetry. The very first poem of the Sapphic corpus is, after all, an
intense prayer to Aphrodite, where the goddess is implored to be the
summakhos battle-ally of the poetess (F 1.28 V). The I of Sappho pic
tures herself and Aphrodite as parallel rather than reciprocal agents:
,

Sappho F 1.26-27 V
and however many things my spirit f thumos] yearns to
accomplish [verb teU, active]. I pray that you [Aphrodite]
accomplish [verb tefco, active]

I draw attention to the wording to accomplish, an active


infinitive instead of the expected passive to be accom
plished.135 If someone else needs something done by Aphrodite,
154 See again Frame 1978.150-162 on the epithet of the Asvin-s, Naiatyau, which he inter
prets as they who bring back to life and light; for the Aivin-s as Evening/M orning Star,
see pp. 255-256.
135 For a similar effect, we may compare the opposition of active faciam that I d o and
passive Jim to be done, both referring to the verbs odi et amo in Catullus 85.

260

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Sapphos poetry opts for the passive infinitive to be accom


plished, not active to accomplish:
] [
] [] [
F]oi

Sappho F 5.1-4 V
Aphrodite and Nereids, grant that my brother
come back here unharmed,
and that however many things he wishes in his spirit
may all be accomplished fverb tele , passive]

[th m 0 s \

to happen

The figure of Sappho projects mortal identity onto the divine expli
citly as well as implicitly. I cite the following examples from one poem:
] [] '
' ,
][] [] [] [] oat
Sappho F 96.2-5, 21-23 V
Many limes turning your attention

[n o o s]

in this direction

you, a likeness of the well-known goddess.


And it is in your song and dance that she delighted especially.
It is not easy for us
to become equal in lovely shape
to the goddesses

An even more significant example is Sappho F 58.25-26 V, two verses


quoted by Athenaeus 687b. Sappho is cited as a woman who professes
not to separate to kalon what is beautiful from habrotes luxuriance*:
, [...] ,

Phaethon, Sapphos Phaon

261

^ 136 ^ ^
Sappho F 58.25-26 V
But I love luxuriance (h)abrosun1. . . . this,
and lust for the sun has won me brightness and beauty.137

From Oxyrhynchus Papyn 1787 we can see that these two verses come at
the end of a poem alluding to mythical topics. According to Lobel and
Page, verses 19 and following refer to Tithonos (F 58 LP). Be that as it
may, we do see images about growing old, with hair turning white and
the knees losing their strength (Sappho F 58.13-15 V). The fragmentary
nature of the papyrus prevents certainty about the speaker and the
speakers predicament, but somebody is feeling helpless, asking rhetori
cally what can be done, and bemoaning some impossibility (58.17-18).
Also, the Lesbian Eos is mentioned: rosy-armed
Dawn (58.19).
As a coda to this poem, the last two versos, which I interpret as pro
claiming Sapphos lust for the sun*, amount to a personal and artistic
manifesto. The (h)abrosn luxuriance* of Sappho transcends the banal
discussion of Athenaeus, who quotes these two verses. For Sappho,
(hjdbros luxuriant is the epithet of Adonis (F 140 V), as also of the Kharites Graces* (128 V), on whose chariot Aphrodite rides (194 V). At
Sappho F 2.13-16 V, (h)dbrs (14) is the adverb describing the scene
as Aphrodite is asked to pour nectar. The use of (Kjdbros lux
uriant/ (h)abrosiind luxuriance in Sappho reminds us of the Roman
neoterics and their allusive use of lepidus/lepos in expressing their artistic
identity. As for Sapphos lust for the sun and love of (h)abrosund [lux
uriance], these themes combine profound personal and artistic ideals.
In verses preceding the coda, the words of Sappho perhaps alluded to
Phaon as an old man, compared with Tithonos. Or perhaps Phaon was
son of Tithonos. We do hear of a myth where Phaethon is son of Titho
nos (Apollodorus 3.14.3); just as Phaethon was son of Eos Dawn,
perhaps Phaon was son of the Lesbian cognate, Aus Dawn mentioned
in the same poem, Sappho F 58.19. The expression [
[she], taking to the ends of the earth in the following

136 Cf. Hamm 1957 241.


137 This interpretation differs from that of e.g. Campbell 1982.101, who reads (
), agreeing with . Even if we were to accept die reading , we could
theoretically interpret the crasis along the lines of = (cf. e.g. =
at Alcaeus 69.5 V; cf. Hamm p. 91c).

262

The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

verse 20 of this poem, along with snatched in the following


verse 21, remind us of Okeanos/Eridanos and Harpies.
In any case, the fact remains that there is a Lesbian myth about Phaon
as an old man (Sappho F 211 V); significantly, in this same myth Aphro
dite herself assumes the form of an old woman, whom the old Phaon
generously ferries across a strait (ibid.). I suspect that the figure of Sap
pho identifies herself with this figure of an old woman. Similarly, we
may compare the myth of the mourning Aphrodites plunge from the
White Rock out of love for the dead Adonis (Ptolemaios Chennos by way
of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153 Bekker)158 as pertinent to the poetics of
Sappho, where the explicit theme of mourning for Adonis (F 168 V) may
be connected with the latent theme of Sapphos self-identification with
Aphrodite.
In short, there is a mythical precedent for an aging lady to love
Phaon. The implicit hope is retrieved youth. After Aphrodite crossed
the strait, she became a beautiful goddess again, conferring youth and
beauty on Phaon, too (again, Sappho F 211 V). For all these reasons,
perhaps, Sappho loves Phaon.
158See pp. 229fT.

CHAPTER 10

On the Death of Actaeon

The myth of Actaeon the hunter is famous from the version in Ovid
Metamorphoses 3.13 and following, where Artemis literally turns Actaeon
into a stag. The hapless victim is then tom to shreds by his own hounds.
One critic has claimed that the same theme recurs in Stesichorus PMG
236.1This fragment has been derived from the following passage:

,

Pausanias 9.2.3
S tesichorus o f H im era w rote th a t th e g o d d ess [A rtem is] flung th e h id e o f a
stag a ro u n d A ctaeon, arran g in g for him a d eath th at cam e from his own
h o u n d s so th a t he m ight n o t take Sem ele as wife.

If we follow this interpretation, the expression


flung the hide of a stag around Actaeon reflects the
actual words of Stesichorus, a n d it m e a n s fig u rativ ely that the goddess,
by flinging the derma hide of a stag around Actaeon, thereby
transformed the derma hide of Actaeon into that of a stag. For this pur
portedly traditional usage of penbdllo fling around [someone] in the
sense of transform, a striking parallel passage has been adduced, where
we find the gods in the act of transforming Philomele into a
nightingale:2
1Rose 1931.

2ibid.
263

Copyrighted material

264

The Hellenization of IndoEuropean Myth and Ritual

oi
Aeschylus Agamemnon 1147
for they [the gods] have flung [verb peribdllo] around her [Philomele] a
feather-wearing body [demos]
While conceding that the verb peribdUo implies transform in this pas
sage, another critic rejects the argument that this usage applies also to
the context of Stesichorus PMG 236.3 Rather, he reads peribdUo in the
Stesichorus fragment to mean that Artemis merely flung a deerskin
around Actaeon. For support, he cites the evidence from Greek icono
graphy, where the motif of a dying Actaeon clad in deerskin is clearly
attested.4 As a prime example, he singles out a metope from Temple E in
Selinus (middle fifth century B.C.),5 which features Actaeon wearing the
deerskin and his hounds lunging more at it than at him.6
Such evidence, however, is inconclusive: the theme of Actaeons wear
ing rather than having the hide of a stag may be a visual as well as verbal
metaphor. On the verbal level peribdllo implies clothing, as in the Phi
lomele passage of Aeschylus quoted above. The gods transform Phi
lomele into a nightingale, but the words of Aeschylus represent the
action as if the gods clothed her with the demos body of a nightingale.
The meaning of peribdUo as clothe is commonplace in Greek (Odyssey v
231, xxii 148; Herodotus 1.152.1, 9.109.1; Euripides fphigeneia in Tauris
1150, and so on), and the derivative periblema actually means garment
(Aristotle Problemata 870a27, etc.). I propose, then, that the wording
peribdUo in Stesichorus PMG 236 is also metaphorical: v
[that the goddess] flung the hide of a stag around
Actaeon, meaning that the goddess transformed him into a stag.
In favor of the nonmetaphorical interpretation, the objection still
remains that [derma skin] is not the same as [demas
body].7 This objection does not reckon, however, with the traditional
theme of equating ones identity with ones hide." The lexical evidence
of the Indo-European languages reveals traces of this equation. We may
consider, for example, a cognate of Indie tvdc- hide and Greek sdkos
cowhide-shield, namely, Hittite tweka-: besides meaning body, this
word is also regularly used to designate person, self, ones own self. We*
* Bowra 1961.99-100.
4 Bowra pp. 99-100, 125-126, with the alternative representation of Actaeon as sprout
ing antlers also taken into account
5 Richter 1950 fig. 411.
6 Bowra 1961.125.
7 Bowra p. 100.

On the Death of Actaeon

265

may consider also Latin uersipellis, meaning literally he whose hide is


turned (from verb uert tum and noun pellis hide, skin). In Plautus
Amphitruo 123, uersipellis designates Jupiter when he transformed himself
into the human Amphitruo; in Pliny Natural History 8.34 and Petronius
62, uersipellis means werewolf.
Thus we have comparative evidence in favor of the argument that the
text of Stesichorus PMG 236 reflects a traditional usage, which we can
interpret metaphorically to mean that Actaeon was indeed transformed
into a stag. The iconographical evidence may be explained as an equally
symbolic means of representing the same conception as we find in the
poetic evidence.
One last problem remains. It has been argued that such expressions
as periba in Stesichorus PMG 236 are ultimately not metaphorical on
the grounds that the Actaeon myth seems to be connected with rituals of
hunting.8 If I understand this argument, its underlying assumption is
that metaphor must be incompatible with ritual. Such an assumption
seems to me unjustified: for a ritual participant to wear the skin of a stag
in a ritual context is potentially just as much a matter of metaphor as it is
for an audience of myth to hear that Artemis flung the deerskin on
Actaeons body.
8Ren ner 1978.286 16, d u n g e.g. Burkert 198S.111-114.

TliE h e l l e n iz a t io n
F INDO-EUROPEAN
SC IA L IDEOLOGY

CHAPTER 11

Poetry and the Ideology of the Polis:


The Symbolism o f Apportioning Meat


, , <) *

Philochonis FGH 328 F 216 from Athenaeus 630 f
Philochorus says that the Spartans, after having defeated the Messeniam
on account of the leadership of Tyrtaeus, instituted a custom in their mili
tary organization: whenever they would prepare dinner and perform pae
ans, they would each take turns singing the poems of Tyrtaeus. The
polemarch would serve asjudge and award a cut of meat to the winner.
This passage, if its testimony is to be believed, illustrates an ideology
basic to the polis, namely, the notion of community through the partici
pation of social equals. The ritual that is being described, the awarding
of a cut of meat to the winner of a contest, dramatizes such an ideology.
As the studies of Jean-Pierre Vemant and Marcel Detienne have shown,
the archaic Greek custom of competing for prizes in contests presup
poses the communalization of property that is to be apportioned and dis
tributed in a manner that is egalitarian in ideologybut without exclud
ing the option of awarding special privileges.1Where the prize is a cut of
meat, the communalization takes place through the central act that
integrates the community, namely, the sacrifice of a victim and the
apportioning of its meat.2
1Vemant 1985.202-260, esp. pp. 210-215; Detienne 1973.82-99.
2Detienne and Vemant 1969, in particular the article by Detienne, "Pratiques

269

270

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

In the passage under consideration the prize is being awarded for the
best performance of the poetry of Tyrtaeus. It is my contention that the
very contents of this poetry are pertinent to the ritual of awarding the
cut of meat. The poetics of Tyrtaeus in particular and elegiac poetics in
general amount to a formal expression of the ideology of the polis, in
that the notion of social order is envisaged as the equitable distribution
of communal property among equals. Giovanni Cerri adduces a striking
illustration from the elegiac poetry of Theognis, in a passage where the
poet condemns the breakdown of the social order:*3
* , ' ,
* *
Theognis 677-678
They seize possessions by force, and order [kosm os] has been destroyed.
There is no longer an equitable distribution [isos d a s m o s I,4
directed at the center [es to m e s o n ] ,5

In the language of elegiac poetry, the dasmos distribution is


envisaged specifically as the distribution of food at a feast, as we see from
Solons condemnation of the elite for their destroying the social order:
* ,
.


Solon F 4.7-10 W [= F 3 GP]
The intent of the leaders of the community6 is without justice

[dike].

What

culinaires et esprit de sacrifice, pp. 10, 23-24; also the article by Detienne and Svenbro
(1979), Les loups au festin ou la Cite impossible, esp. pp. 219-222. To repeat, the appor
tioning and distribution of meat, though conducted in an egalitarian manner, does not
exclude the option of awarding special privileges. See also Svenbro 1982, esp. pp. 954-955.
Cf. Loraux 1981.616-617.
3 Cerri 1969. For an analysis of Theognis 667-682, the poem in which this passage
occurs: N 1985a.22-24.
4 The isos equal, equitable of isos d a s m o s refers to the v i r t u a l equality of the partici
pants; cf. Detienne 1973.96.
5 Cf. the paraphrase of es td m eson directed at the center by Cerri 1969.103: under the
control of the community. This expression es to m eso n directed at the center evidently
refers to an agonistic communalization of possessions that are marked for orderly distribu
tion by the community. I cite Cerris survey of parallel passages.
6 1 disagree with West 1974.68 that the expression leaders of the community [dem os]*
(as here and at Solon F 6.1 W = F 8 GP) means popular leaders* i.c. champions of demo
cracy: see N 1985a.43-^4. On d e m o s in the sense o f community, see p. 3n7 above.

Poetry and the Ideology of the Polis

271

is in store for them


is th e experiencing of many pains as a result of their great
outrage [ h b r i s ] .
F o r th ey do not know how to check insatiability or
to m a k e o rd e r [ k o s m o s ] for the merriment [e u p h ro s n e plural]7 that goes on
in the serenity of the feast [ d a i s ] .

T h e w ord dais feast* is derived from the verb daiomai, meaning


d iv id e , distribute, apportion.89The very poem of Solon from which this
p a s s a g e is taken centers on the concept of Eunomi, personified as a god
d e s s (S o lo n F 4.32 W). Like the word isonomi? Eunomi is derived from
t h e v e rb nemo, meaning distribute, apportion.10 The same word
E u n o m i is reported by Aristotle (Politics 1306b40) and Strabo (8.4.10
C 3 6 2 ) as the nam e of a poem by Tyrtaeus concerning the constitution of
S p a r ta (F 1-4 W).
T h e dais feast* that is described by Solon as being disrupted because
o f hubris outrage* is to be envisaged specifically as an occasion for the
d is trib u tio n o f meat, as we see from the following condemnation of
hubris in the elegiac poetry of Theognis:


Theognis 541-542

I fear, son of Polypaos, that


will destroy this polis
[the same hbris] that destroyed the Centaurs, eaters of raw meat.11
In the Odyssey (xxi 295-304), the leader of the suitors, Antinoos him
self, retells a myth about the disruption of a feast by the Centaur
E urytiona disruption that precipitated the battle of the Centaurs and
Lapiths. This retelling entails an irony unintended by Antinoos, since
th e suitors themselves violate all the norms of a dais feast, an activity
7 On the programmatic connotations of e u p h r o s u n e merriment as the occasion for poe
try at a feast: N 1979a.l9,92 (with 39n7), 236 (with 15n5).
8 Cf. N 1979a. 127-128 et passim, with bibliography.
9 For documentation and bibliography: Cerri 1969.103-104.
10 For an illuminating note on the meaning of e u n o m i in Solon (F 4.32 W) and in Aristo
tle ( P o l itic s 1294a4-7), see Svenbro 1982.962n27, who also discusses the differences in polit
ical nuance between e u n o m i and x s o n o m id ,
II Cf. Apollodorus 2.5.4: the Centaur Pholos offers roast meat to his guest Herakles,
while he himself eats his own portions of meat raw ( ). Cf. also
Theognis 54, with an implied description of debased aristocrats in language that suits the
Cyclopes (cf. O d y ssey ix 215); discussion in N 1985a.44 29n4 (also p. 51 39n2).

272

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

that conventionally centers on the ritual core of the sacrifice of a victim


and the distribution of its meat.12
Thus the evidence of elegiac poetry, as supplemented by that of epic
poetry, implies a coherent picture of dike justice in terms of an orderly
apportioning of meat at a feast that centers on a correctly executed
sacrifice; conversely, hbris outrage is represented as the disruption and
perversion of this process.13 Given that the poems of Tyrtaeus, one of
which is even called Eunomia (as we have seen), are representative of the
function of elegiac poetry as an expression of the polis, the performance
of this poet is ideologically suited to the ritual reported by Philochorus,
namely, the awarding of a cut of meat to the one who gives the best per
formance.
I therefore call into question the opinions expressed on this matter by
Felix Jacoby, who thought that the practice reported by Philochorus can
not be dated further back than the early fourth century B.C.14 Jacoby
argued ex silentio that, in the fifth century B.C. and in the first decade of
the fourth, there was nothing known about Tyrtaeus in Sparta.15Accord
ing to Jacoby, the references to Tyrtaeus by the likes of Philochorus
(FGH 328 F 215, 216; second half of the fourth century B.C., first half of
the third), the orator Lycurgus (Against Leocrates 106-107), and Plato
12 On the suitors* violation of social norms through violation of the dais feast*: Said
1979.
15 Aesop Fable 348 Perry, about the Wolf as Lawgiver and the Ass, is comparable to the
story in Herodotus 3.142-143, where Maiandrios, successor to the tyrant Polycrates of
Samos, declares to the assembly of citizens that he will place his political power es meson
under the control of the community*, proclaiming tsonomid (3.142.3). On es to m hm
directed at the center' in the sense of under the control of the community, see p. 270n5.
As Detienne and Svenbro point out (1979.220-221,230), both the wolf as lawgiver and the
tyrant commit the same perversion o f the principles of community: just as the wolf as
lawgiver reserves portions of meat for himself before the procedure of placing all seized
meat to meson (Aesop Fable 348.4), so also Maiandrios reserves special privileges for him
self before placing his political power es meson (Herodotus 3.142.3). On the wolf as the sym
bolic antithesis of the Law, see the bibliography assembled by Detienne and Svenbro 1979;
also Davidson 1979 and Grottanclli 1981, esp. p. 56. On the possible etymology of
Lukourgos (=* Lycurgus), lawgiver of the Spartans, as he who wards off the wolf: Burkett
1979a. 165-166n24.
14Jacoby FGH Illb vol. 1 pp. 583-584 and Illb vol. 2 pp. 479-480. See also Jacoby 1918.
esp. pp. 1-12.
15Jacoby thought that Herodotus did not know of the poetry of Tyrtaeus, on the grounds
that there is no mention of him in the discussion of how Sparta achieved eunomia in Hero
dotus 1.65-66. And yet, what Herodotus says does leave room for the possibility that he
did indeed know of Tyrtaeus. Herodotus rejects a version of the Lycurgus story according
to which the lawgiver got his laws from the Delphic Oracle, preferring a version that he
attributes to the contemporary Spartans themselves, to the effect that Lycurgus got his laws
from Crete. In my opinion, this version leaves room for the notion that both Lycurgus and
Tyrtaeus made contributions to the constitution of SpartaLycurgus with laws from Crete
and Tyrtaeus with laws from the Delphic Oracle (see Tyrtaeus F 4.1-2 W).

Poetry and the Ideology of the Polis

273

himself (Lam 629b) are based on an Athenian transmission of Tyrtaeus,


as supposedly evidenced by the tradition that the poet himself was a
native Athenian.16
But this is to misunderstand the accretive nature of myths about poets
and their poetry: even if we concede that the detail about the Athenian
provenience of Tyrtaeus reflects an anachronistic elaboration, it does
not follow that the other details of the Tyrtaeus story as reported by
Athenian sources are likewise anachronisdc.17 Moreover, there is reason
to doubt the notion that the story of an Athenian Tyrtaeus is necessarily
an Athenian tradition. There is evidence to suggest that the stories
about the foreign proveniences of Spartas poets are not foreign but
native Spartan traditions, suited to the overall ideology of the polis.IH
Besides, it is a common traditional theme that the culture hero of a
given polis is really a foreigner or at least one who introduces his cultural
boon from a foreign source.19
In the case of stories about cultural boons introduced from foreign
sources, there is an interesting example in the elegiac poetry of
Theognis: here the poets model of social cohesion is the foundation not
of his native Megara but of Thebes (Theognis 15-18), which is the city
where the poet represents his own tomb, in the mode of an epigram:
,
16 References to the Athenian provenience of Tyrtaeus: Philochorus FGH 328 F 215 and
Callisthenes FGH 124 F 24 from Strabo 8.4.10 C362.
17 From the standpoint of literary history as well, one can argue against Jacobys notion
that there was a lacuna in the transmission of Tyrtaeus in the fifth century. There is reason
to believe that the poetry of Tyrtaeusand all archaic elegiac poetry, for that matterwas
being continually recomposed in the process of transmission through performance (see N
1985a.46-51). The factor of continual recomposition would account for the anachronistic
accretions of given passages and testimonia.
18 Note the parallelisms of themes in the testimonia about the foreign proveniences of
archaic Spartas poets, as collected by Fontenrosel978: Q 18 (Tyrtaeus), Q 53 (Terpander),
and Q 54 (Thalctas); cf. also Q 118. For the testimonia on these and other poets of Sparta,
including Aleman, see Calame 1977 2:34-36. As Calame emphasizes (p. 35), the poetry of
all these poets is integral to the ritual complex of Spartan festivals (cf. Brelich 1969.186ff ).
I would argue, therefore, that such traditions as the report about the Lydian provenience
of Aleman (PMG 13a; also PMG 1 Schol. B., Velleius Paterculus 1.18.2, Aelian Varia Historia
12.50) must be correlated with the fact that there were Spartan rituals that centered on
Lydian themes, such as , the 'Procession of the Lydians mentioned in Plu
tarch Aristeides 17.10 in connection with the cult of Artemis Orthia. We may compare an
event known as the Dance of the Lydian Maidens," at a festival of Artemis at Ephesus
(Autocrates F I Kock, from Aelian De natura animalium 12.9 and Aristophanes Clouds
599-600; see the discussion of Calame 1977 1:178-185). In this case, it seems clear to me
that the term Lydian Maidens' in fact designates a ritual role played by the local girls of
Ephesus.
**For a brief survey of examples, see Pfister 1909 1:130-133: Verehrung des fremden
Heros wegen seiner Verdienste."

274

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

.
Theognis 1209-1210

I am Aithon by birth, and I have an abode in well-walled Thebes,


since I have been exiled from my native land.10

That the poet here pictures himself as already dead becomes clear
from the verses that immediately follow: after some further cryptic words
that are beyond the scope of this inquiry (Theognis 1211-1213), the
poet reiterates that he is an exile (1213-1214), and then he indicates
overtly that his abode is next to the Plain of Lethe (1215-1216).2
021
These themes are strikingly analogous to what we find in the story of
Lycurgus: the Spartan lawgiver is said to have introduced his laws from a
foreign source, in this case, Crete (Herodotus 1.65.4; Plutarch Lycurgus
4.1), which is where he returns in self-imposed exile and starves himself
to death in order to make these laws permanent (Plutarch Lycurgus 29.8,
31; Ephorus FGH 70 F 175, from Aelian Varia Historia 13.23).22 The
theme of Lycurgus death by hunger brings us back to the name Aithon
assumed by Theognis as an exile speaking from his tomb (1209-1210).
The adjective aithon can mean 'burning [with hunger] and is used as an
epithet for characters known for their ravenous hunger, such as Erysikhthon (Hesiod F 43 MW).23 Odysseus himself assumes the name Aithon
(Odyssey xix 183), and he does so in a context of assuming the stance of a
would-be poet (xix 203, in conjunction with xiv 124-125 and vii
215-221). This poet-like stance of Odysseus is symbolized by the con
cept of the gaster belly (as at Odyssey vii 216): hunger can impel a man
to use ambiguous discourse in order to ingratiate himself with his
audienceand thus feed his gaster.24 But this ambiguous discourse of the
poet, the technical word for which is ainos (as at Odyssey xiv 508), is not
20 For an analysis of this passage, see N 1985a.76-81. Note especially the parallel usages
of oike I have an abode in this passage of Theognis (1210) and in Sophocles Oedipus at
Cotonus 27, 28, 92, 627, 637. In N pp. 76-77,1 argue that oike in such contexts refers to the
establishing of a corpse in a sacred precinct for the purposes of hero cult. On historical
evidence for the cultural debt of pre-Dorian Megara to Thebes, see Hanell 1934.95-97.
21 On the poetic convention that pictures the poet who speaks as one who is already
dead, with further discussion of Theognis 1209-1210 and related passages, see N
pp. 68-81. On the convention of representing the poet's poetry as his own sema 'tom b',
see p. 222n62. In this connection, we may note that elegiac poetry, as represented by the
likes of Theognis and Tyrtaeus, is a reflex of the poetic traditions of lamentation as
removed from the tribal context and as appropriated and reshaped by the polis. On this
subject, see Edmunds 1985.
22 N pp. 31-32; cf. Szegedy-Maszak 1978.199-209, esp. p. 208.
23 For further elaboration: N pp. 76-91.
24 See p. 44. Cf. Svenbro 1976.50-59.

Poetry and the Ideology of the Polis

275

just a negative concept. It can also be a positive social force: when the
disguised king Odysseus is begging for food at the feasts of the impious
suitors, he is actually speaking not only in the mode of an ainos25 but
also in the role of an exponent of dike justice.26 The role of Aesop, mas
ter of the ainos in both the general sense and in the specific sense of
fable,27 is analogous: he uses this discourse to indicate cryptically what
is right and wrong,28 and we must keep in mind the aition cause of his
death, which was that he ridiculed the ritualized greed of a Delphic rite
where meat is being apportioned in a disorderly and frenzied manner
(Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1800).29 In the praise poetry of Pindar, the technical
word for which is likewise ainos (in the testimony of the poetry itself),30
the concept of the gaster can again be seen as a positive social force (Isth
mian 1.49).
In elegiac poetry as well, we have seen that the poet as exponent of
dike justice associates the social order of the polis with the orderly
apportioning of meat at a feast. At the beginning of this presentation we
observed this association in the negative context of the poets condemn
ing the behavior of the elite, as when Solon compares their acts to the
disruption of a feast or when Theognis compares the perpetrators of
disruption to unruly Centaurs. There is also an important positive con
text in the description by Theognis of the foundation of Thebes by Kadmos, which is celebrated by the poet as the inauguration of his own poe
try (15-18) :31 myth has it that the actual occasion for the foundation was
a feast, featuring an egalitarian distribution of food (Nonnus Dionysiaka
5.30-32). And the bride of Kadmos the Founder is none other than
Harmonia incarnate (cf. Hesiod Theogony 937, 975).32
In sum, the Spartan ritual practice involving the award of a cut of
meat as reported by Philochorus is perfectly in accord with the ideology
of the archaic polis as expressed in the elegiac poetry of Tyrtaeus. To
perform the poetry of an exponent of dike justice is perfectly in accord
with the prize of meat that is awarded to the winning performer.25
25For documentation, see N 1979a.231-242.
16N pp. 231-242. On Odysseus as the quintessentially just king, sec esp. Odyssty xix
109-114.
*7N p. 239 18n2.
*N pp. 281-284.
N pp. 284-288.
mN pp. 222-223, following Detienne 1973.21.
91Quoted, with commentary, in N 1985a.27-29.
92Elaboration in N p. 28.

CHAPTER 12

Mythical Foundations o f Greek Society


and the Concept o f the City-State

The kinship terminology of the various Indo-European languages, as


outlined in Emile Benvenistes Le vocabulaire des institutions indoeuwpeennes (1969), shows dearly that the basis o f Indo-European social
organization was the tribe.1 For the word tribe, I find the working
definition o f Montgomery Watt, in his study o f pre-Islamic Arab society
particularly useful: a body of people linked together by kinship,
whether in the male or in the female line.2 The kinship, of course, may
be a matter of confederation, not ju st genedc affiliation, and the com
mon ancestry o f the given body of people may be a matter of mythopoeic thinking, not just reality.3
The problem is, efforts to study the Indo-European heritage o f tribal
organization have been impeded by the fact that most Indo-European
languages are attested in the historical context o f societies that happen
to reflect what we recognize as institutions o f a state, not of a tribe. At
the present time there is much uncertainty, particularly in the case of
the ancient Greek evidence, where the current consensus among special
ists in archaic and Classical Greek history is that the institutions o f the
Greek polis city-state cannot be derived from the institutions o f any tri
bal form o f society. The object o f my presentation is to argue against
this consensus and to show that the ancient Greek evidence affords a
1F o r

a d e ta ile d

s t u d y o f I n d o - E u r o p e a n k i n s h i p t e r m i n o l o g y , w i t h a r i c h b ib lio g r a p h y ,

se e S ze m e rc n y i 1978.
2 W a t t 1 9 6 2 .1 5 3 .

Waft p.

153.

1964; a ls o C a la m e 1 9 8 7 .

276

F or

an

in s tr u c tiv e e s s a y o n d e s c e n t a n d s y m b o l ic f ilia tio n , s e e M o o re

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

277

particularly valuable comparative insight into the nature of IndoEuropean society.


To illustrate the current consensus against the notion of a tribal heri
tage in the Greek polis, I cite the detailed book of Denis Roussel (1976).
He deplores the equation, made by Classicists in general, between the
notion of tribe** and the Greek word phle,45which is glossed in the dic
tionary of Liddell and Scott as race, tribe*. As Roussel recognizes, the
phle is in fact a subdivision of society in the polis, as we see from the
traditional four-phlai system of Ionian cities and the traditional threeor four-phlat systems of Dorian cities. For Aristotle, it is hard even to
imagine the existence of a polis without subdivisions into phlat, not to
mention sub-subdivisions into ph(r)lriai (Politics 1264a8). The fact that
the phle was a distinctive feature of the polis but not of the ethnos? had
led Max Weber to postulate that the phle was the invention, as it were,
of the polis.6 Even in myth, the phlat were treated as inventions made
for and in the city (e.g. Ion institutes the four old phlat of Athens:
Herodotus 5.66.2, Euripides Ion 1579-1588; Aletes institutes the eight
phlat o f Corinth: Suda n 225 Adler s.v.
o(). Accordingly, the rea
soning goes, the phlat were never tribes. For Roussel, if indeed the
phle was a functional subdivision of the polis, there is then no reason to
think that this institution was a reflex of tribal society.7 *
What is misleading here, I suggest, is the assumption that the reflex of
the tribeif there is to be a reflex at allshould be the phle of the
polls. Rather, it should be the polis itself. We must keep in mind that,
from an anthropological point of view, the concept of politicsas
derived from the word polisis not incompatible with the concepts of
tribe in general and kinship in particular.8Just like the polis, the tribe is
a social totalityfrom the standpoint o f the tribe. For example, Benveniste notes the semantics of Indie i/fi- tribe, people* and o f the derivative
visva- all*.9 And the totality of the polis, as Roussels findings suggest, is
4 R o u ssel 1976163,

5For more on the e th n o s , see Snodgrass 1980.42-47.


6 Weber [ 1 9 5 6 ] , 7 7 6 - 7 8 0 ; c f. L a t t e 1 9 4 1 , 9 9 4 - 9 9 5 .
7See esp. Roussel 1976.257-260.
8 On tr i b a l p o l i t i c s , see e.g. Gluckman 1965.
9Benveniste 1969 1:366. Note that the concept of iw- stands for a whole community
by a k in g : see the discussion by Drekmeier 1 9 6 2 .2 0 , 49. Cf. O l d Persian v royal
house, court'. There is a parallel concept in Old Irish, where the // tribe, people is
ruled by the r i 'king*. For the I r is h evidence, see Byrne 1971, esp. p. 132; cf. also Dillon
1 9 7 5 .9 8 - 1 0 5 . 1 s h o u l d a d d that the reference to the c h o o s i n g of a king by the v is a h [plural
of vis-] in R ig -V e d a 10.124.8 seems comparable to the choosing of an over-king by a group
ing of tu a th a in O l d I r is h traditions ( o n which see B y r n e p. 133 and D illo n p . 1 0 5 ) . I n t h e
diction of the R ig -V e d a the theme of universal kingship as applicable to gods leads to an
e m p h a s is on the concept of over-kingship, so that a given g o d a s rn ja n - 'k in g ' is p r e d o m
in a n tly described as l o r d over v is a h (plural), n o t over any single
The compound

278

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

the sum of its phlat. I would suggest, therefore, that if the polis
developed from the tribe, then the phule developed from a subdivision of
the tribe.
In this connection, we may consider the etymology of the Umbrian
word trifu- tribe* (cognate of Latin tribus),1012*used correctively with the
word tuta city* or people (cognate of Old Irish tuath tribe, people and
German Deutsch) in referring to the city of Iguvium (Iguvine Tables l\\
24-25, 29-30: tutape(r) Iiuvina trefiper Iiuvina).11 As Benveniste argues,^
Umbrian trifu- is apparently derived from a combination of *tri- and
*bhu-, where the second element is cognate with the ph- of phle. As
cognate concepts of a social totality subdivided into three parts, Benven
iste connects the Greek place-name Triphuli13 and the distinctly Dorian
patterns of subdividing the citizens of the polis into three phla4
As for the Latin word tribus, it seems to have undergone a semantic
shift of subcategorization:15 instead of designating the totality of society,
as is the case with the Umbrian cognate trifu, Latin tribus applies to each
of the three primordial constituencies of Rome (Cicero De republica 2.14:
[Romulus] populum. . An tribus tris curiasque triginta discripserat; also Livy
10.6.7). 1 would attribute this particular shift to a process of sunoikismos
urban consolidation*16 that could have operated on the ideological prin
ciple of trifunctionalism: three parts make a whole that in turn becomes
part of a new totality of three.17 In short, I understand the Roman model
v is p a ti- 'lord of the v is - seems to be synonymous with r ja n -: cf. A th a r u a -V e d a 4.22.3 and the
comments of Gonda 1976.139n66. But note the attestation of the periphrases v is a h p a ti lord of the v is- [singular] at R ig -V e d a 10.152.2 and v i s m p a t i - lord of the v is a h [plural]* at
e.g. A th a r v a -V e d a 1.21.1. 1 would compare Old Irish ri tu a ith e king of the tu a t h [singular]*
and ri tu a th king of the tu a t h a [plural]* = over-king, respectively (see Byrne pp. 132-134).
As for the cognate of Indie v i s p a t i Lithuanian v ie s p a ts [sovereign] lord, I find no evi
dence to justify the translation chief of clan* (as in Benveniste 1:295). For arguments
against translating Indie v is - as clan*, see Gonda pp. 138-139, who adduces passages like
R ig -V e d a 4.4.3, where the poet refers to his community as this v is - [singular]*. Note, too,
that the semantics of Lithuanian v ie s k e lis Landstrasse, offendicher Weg* (LEW 1244) sug
gest that v ie s - stands for the concept of a whole community.
10The semantics of Latin tn b u s are discussed immediately below.
11 The correlation seems to be in terms of political vs. territorial distinctions: whereas
tu t a is political, tr ifu is territorial. Cf. the usage of Utr ib u s n in Umbrian place-names as
reported by Livy 31.2.6 and 33.37.1 (Poultney 1959.274). For more on the semantics of
Umbrian tu t a , Old Irish tu a t h , and German D e u ts c h , see Benveniste 1969 1:364.
12 Benveniste 1:258-259. Otherwise Watkins 1966.45-49.
15 Benveniste 1:258-259; there is no need to posit, as Benveniste does, that the name
Triphylia* reflects a specifically Dorian pedigree.
14 Benveniste 1:258-259.
15 On this topic, see furdier at p. 284n51.
16 For a parallel, cf. die discussion of the s u n o ik is m o s at Rhodes at p. 285n53.
17 On the trifuncdonal association of the three primordial tr ib s with the three disdnet
ethnic groups of Latins/Etruscans/Sabines, I cite the updated views of Dumezil 1969.214.
Also Alfldi 1974.59-60, who points to patterns of Etruscan linguisdc borrowings from

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

279

of tnbus, a third of the whole, to be a secondary development, as dis


tinct from an earlier semantic pattern represented by the Umbrian
model, where the equivalent of Latin tnbus is a triad that is the whole.18
This Roman model leads to the Latin usage of translating Greek phle,
which is clearly pari of the whole, by way of tnbus. Even in the earlier
model, the principle of division is built in, as we see from the verb tribu.
Benvenistes basic explanation of Latin tnbus and Umbrian tnfu- as a
combination of *tri- and *bhu-, where the second element is cognate
with the phu- of phtile, is dismissed as de la pure acrobatie linguistique
by Roussel,19 for whom the thre&phlai subdivisions of citizens in Dorian
cities are a matter of relatively recent cultural diffusion, not of common
inheritance.20 But this is to underestimate the weight of not only com
parative but also internal evidence, as we shall now see.
In a recent study of the epigraphical testimonia of official city docu
ments, it has been argued that, in Dorian cities where the three-p/m/
subdivision prevails, there is a traditional hierarchy in the ranking of the
phlai.21 Citizens of Dorian cities like Megara and Cos are consistently
listed in the following order of three phlai: (1) Dumnes (2) Hulleis (3)
Pmphloi.22 Alongside this principle of hierarchy there is a complemen
tary principle of egalitarianism, in that all three phlai get to share in
certain aspects of civic life on an equal basis. Thus, for example, the
terms of certain magistracies seem to be divided equally among the
phlai within the space of one year. Also, the principle of rotation
applies: the sequence 1 /2 / 3 of Dumnes/Hulleis/Pmphloi will be fol
lowed by 2 / 3 / 1 , then by 3 /1 /2 , back to 1/ 2 / 3 , and so forth. To quote
directly the formulation of Jones: the Dorian phulai, wherever found,
followed a common, traditional order that might, on occasion, be
rotated in such a way that in any given document any of the three phlai
might hold first, second, or third position.23
Still, the hierarchy of the phlai is maintained, as we see from the fact
that the third phle, the Pmphloi, is specifically excluded from certain
Italic in arguing against the notion that the Roman concept of tn b u s was borrowed from
the Etruscans.
18 PttTubler 1930, who considers the Roman model primary, and the Umbrian, secon
dary. I should add that the pattern of three cities in the territory of the Vestini (Tubler
pp. 6-10), as also the tripartition of the territory of the Paeligni (pp. 12-14), resembles the
Roman model to the extent that the equivalent of tn b u s in these instances figures as a
third of a larger whole (whence the description by Ovid A m o res 2.16.1 of his home town
Sulmo as a third of Paelignian territory: p a n m e S u lm o tenet P a e lig n i tertia r u ris).
19 Roussel 1976.166.
20 Roussel pp. 221-263.
21Jones 1980a.
22 As for the hierarchy in Dorian cities with four p h la i , see below.
23Jones 1980a.204.

280

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

civic roles, such as certain aspects of public sacrifice.24 Thus the basis for
rotation has to be the order Dumanes/Hulleis/Pmphloi Moreover, in
Dorian cities where a fourth phle had been instituted to accommodate
the supposedly pre-Dorian elements,25 this phle could still rank above
that of the Pmphloi. Thus at Argos, for example, the order of phlai in
an inscription dated ca. 460-450 (DGE no. 96 [1]) is as follows: (1)
Dumanes (2) Hulleis (3) Humthioi (4) Pmphloi,26 Later inscriptions,
however, reflecting a change from an oligarchical to a democratic form
of government,2728930show a changed order of phlai'. (1) Dumanes (2)
Hullets (3) Pmphloi (4) Humthioi28 Such a promotion of the
Pmphloi in the specific context of a democratic ideology is additional
evidence that the Pmphloi had been the lowest of the three phlai.
In sum, we have internal evidence for the traditional convention of a
fixed order in the three-phlai and modified four-phlai systems of
Dorian cities. As Jones concludes, the observance of the convention
throughout the Dorian region shows that the fixed order must, like the
phlai themselves, have antedated the dispersal of the Dorians to their
historical centers.w29 He adds the opinion that the practice of rotating
the ordera sophisticated and . . . egalitarian devicedid not evolve
until well into the historical period."50
24 In an inscription from Cos (DGE no. 253). for example, we read of a resolution by
those phlai who share in the rites of Apollo and Herakles (lines 1-6). Further evidence
from this and other related inscriptions from Cos leads to the conclusion that the phle
associated with the rites of Apollo was in this case the Dumanes; that the phle associated
with the rites of Herakles was the Hullets; and that the phle excluded from these rites was
the Pmphloi See e.g. Jones 1980a.210.
25 For testimonia on the incorporation of non-Dorian elements at Sikyon, Phleious, Epidauros, Trozen, Hermione, see Pausanias 2.6.7, 2.13.1-2, 2.26.1-2, 2.30.10, 2.34.5, respec
tively. Cf. Wrrle 1964.13, who adduces the interesting remarks of Isocrates 12.177f.
26Jones 1980a.205. In Argive inscriptions o f this period, the naming of citizens follows
the pattern: name plus adjective naming the phle (no patronymic necessary). See Wrrle
pp. 16-19.
27 This change is dated to some time in the 460s, but no later than 462 B.C.; see Wrrle
p. 20, 122-126; also Jones p. 206.
28Jones p. 206.
29Jones p. 212.
30Jones p. 212. He 6nds just two exceptions to the sequence Dumanes /H ullets /Pmphloi (pp. 209, 211). Both occur in one set of inscriptions, DGE no. 251 (Cos, iv/iti
B.C.) A 10-13 and C 1-5. The 6rst passage concerns the selection of an ox to be sacrificed
to Zeus Polieus. A priest and a panel of hieropoioi sacrifices must select one ox out of
three triads of oxen, each triad being presented by each of the three phlai If no ox is
selected from the triad presented by the Pmphloi, then the Hulleis are to present their
triad; if no ox is selected from the triad presented by them, then the Dumanes are to
present their triad. In the second passage, which will be discussed again in another context
below, three sheep are to be selected for sacrifice, one on behalf of each of the three phlai
in three different sacred precincts. The sequence of enumeration is Hulleis/Dumanes/
Pmphloi I should note that, exceptionally, both these passages are concerned with the

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

281

All this internal evidence can lead to valuable comparative insights.


For example, the semantic relationship between the name of the lowest
in th e order of three phlaty the Pmphloi, and the word phle itself,
corresponds to the semantic relationship between the name of the
lowest in the order of the three leading social classes or varnars in Indie
traditions,*31 the v a isya and the word from which it is derived, vis- tribe*:
ju st as the word Pmphloi implies the whole community while designat
ing the lowest of three parts, so also the word vaisya-, by virtue of its
derivation, implies the whole community, the vis-, while specifically
designating, again, the lowest of three parts. We have in fact already
noted that the word vis- stands for the concept of a whole community, as
we could see from the semantic relationship between vis- and the deriva
tive visva- all.32 Moreover, in ig-Veda 8.35.13, the expression devdsah
sarvay vis, literally gods, with the vis-complete, denotes the comple
tion of the speech-act of listing the gods of all three social functions
corresponding to the three leading varna-s: Mitra-Varuna as the first
(sovereignty/priesthood), the Maruts as the second (warrior class), and
the Asvins as the third (agriculture/herding).33 The symbolic inclusive
ness of the third part is evident in other ways as well: for example, the
word vis- is sufficient for designating, all by itself, the lowest of the three

rituals of sacrifice. In the first passage the sequence may reflect an ascending order of
importance in a climactic ideology of sacrifice. In the second passage the sequence may
have been affected by the special importance of the cult of Herakles at Cos (to repeat, the
precinct of Herakles was associated with the p h le of the H u lle ts : p. 280n24). In any case,
the expression p a r a ta A n a x ile a , to be discussed below, suggests that the D u m n c s outranked
the H u l le ts .
31 The stratification of the v a r n a -s is attested already in e.g. R ig -V ed a 10.90.11-12: cf.
Dumezil 1958.7-8 and Benveniste 1:279-288. The people of the fourth v a r n a -, namely the
s u d r a are ideologically the servants of the leading three v a r n a - s.
32 Cognate with Indie v is v a - is Avestan v is p a - all, just as Indie v is - is cognate with Avestan
v f s . In Iranian society the v i s seems to have been a subdivision of the z a n tu (< *gen-tu-):
see Benveniste 1969 1:294-295. Whereas the Vedic v is - and the Avestan vis may not neces
sarily represent any longer the same type of social organization, the convergence of mean
ings in Vedic v i s v a - and Avestan v is p a -, both meaning air, suggests that the Indo-Iranian
* v i s - is analogous to, say, the Old Irish tu a th . Both the Indie v is - and the Old Irish tu a th , as
we have seen (p. 277n9), apparently designate a community os r u le d by a k in g . In this light,
we may note the findings of Dubuisson (1978a and 1978b), on the basis of Indo-Iranian
and Celtic rituals of royal inauguration, to the effect that the Indo-European king embo
dies a totality of the triad of three social functions. If, then, we maintain that the third
social function is the completing function that allows the totality to happen, it follows that
the image of the king as a totality should be articulated expressly in terms of the third func
tion. I cite as an example the generative connotations of Germanic *kuningaz king (root
akin to Latin g e n - as in g e n ito r ; cf. also Hittite h a s s u s 'king'in light of the argument that
this word is derived from h a s - beget: see pp. 145fF.). Then the Avestan expression v i s o
p v & r a , as discussed by Benveniste 1:305, may represent a variation on this theme.
33 For more on ig-V<?da8.35.13, see Dumezil 1977.226.

282

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

leading varna-s, the vaisya- (e.g. Rig-Veda 8.35.18).34 The semantic


bivalence of the Indie word vis-, in designating both the third part of
totality and totality itself, has been compared by Georges Dumezil with
the situation in Latin, where the word Quirites, related to (hiirinus, the
god representing the third function in the pre-Capitoline triad, design
nates not only civilians as opposed to milites but also the totality of the
Roman people (note the proposed etymology: *cchuiro-).35 I might add
that, just as Indie vis- may alternatively include the two upper functions
or exclude them,36 so also Greek demos may designate either the whole
community37 or else the community minus its hegemones leaders.38
The parallelisms between the third in the triad of Dorian phlai, the
Pdmphloi, and the third in the triad of Indie varna-s, the vaisya-, extend
beyond the realm of pure semantics. Just as the Pdmphloi are ranked
the third and lowest of the three phlai, so also the vaisya- are ranked
third and lowest of the three leading varna-s.39 Moreover, just as the
Pdmphloi have the lowest priority in certain aspects of sacrifice,40 so too
the vaisya-.41
The insdtutions of sacrifice also reveal other aspects of trifunctionality
in the Dorian triad of phlai. In an inscription from Cos (DGE no.
34 For a commentary on R ig -V e d a 3.35.16-18, see Dumezil 1977.213-215. Note, too,
4.2.2.13 (also 2.1.4.12): universal totality is equated with the triad
b r a h m a /k s a tr a m /v is - , the three characteristics of the three functions. Cf. Gonda
1976.132030.
35 Dumezil 1977.218n2, 226n3,255.
36 For an informative collection of contexts where the v i s - is in conflict with upper strata
of society, see Rau 1957.59-61.
37 N 1979a. 149. Cf. p. 3n7 and pp. 132-133 above.
38 N 1985a.43-44. Cf. also Donlan 1970. On the implications of third function in the
word d e m o s, I cite the semanucs of d e m io u r g o t , the word for ardsans. According to Strabo
8.7.1 C383, Ion divided the populadon of the Athenians into four classes: the g e rg o i cub
dvators, d e m io u r g o i 'ardsans*, h ie r o p o io i priests*, and p h iila k e s guardians; on the affinities
of this grouping system with the fb u r - p h l a i structure of certain Ionian city-states and with
the trifuncdonal Indo-European ideology of (1) sovereignty/priesthood, (2) warrior class,
(3) culdvators/herders and ardsans, see Benveniste 1969 1:289-291 (p a c e Nilsson 1951).
On the difierendadon of the third function between cultivators/herdsmen and ardsans,
see Dumezil 1977.256, with reference to his valuable outiine of four different historically
attested ways of integrating the emerging classes of a given society into the inherited
scheme of trifunctionalism.
39 Note the corporeal imagery in R ig -V e d a 10.90.11-12.
40 See p. 280n24.
41 See the ample documentation in Gonda 1976.131-133, with instances of either thirdranking or complete omission of the v a is y a -. On the imagery of the first two v a r n a s as rest
ing on top of the third for support, see the citations compiled by Gonda p. 135. It goes
without saying that I disagree with Gondas view that such hierarchization of the v a r n a -s
amounts to an argument against Dumczils construct of trifunctionalism. In this connec
tion, I quote the following useful formulation: La coupure initiale qui separe les
representants des deux premieres classes et ceux de la troisieme est une donnee indoeuropeenne commune**: Dumezil 1958.56. Cf. also Dumezil 1959b.26.
S a ta p a th a -B r a h m a n a

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

283

251C),42 it is specified that three sheep are to be selected for sacrifice,


each on behalf of each of the three phlai (lines 1-5):
sheep o f the Hulleis: parci to Herakleion at the precinct of Herakles1
sheep o f the

D u m m ie s : p a r a ta A n a x ile a

at the precinct [called]

A n a x ile a '

sheep o f the Pmphloi: par to Ddmdtnon at the precinct of Demeter*.

The name Anaxilea is evidently composed of the elements anak(t)- king


and los people, host; the latter word for people, as Benveniste points
out, expresses the personal relation of a group of men with a leader.43 As
for the kind of leadership implicit in the word, we may consider the
derivative laiton = leiton} which Herodotus (7.197.2) glosses as the
Achaean word for prutaneion or presidential building.44 Clearly, then,
the association of the Dumnes with a precinct named Anaxilea reflects an
aspect of the first social function of trifunctionality, that is, sovereignty
or legitimation. And, just as clearly, the association of the Pmphloi with
the precinct of Demeter reflects an aspect of the third social function,
that is, agriculture.
As for the association of the Hulleis with the precinct of Herakles, we
may note the tradition according to which Hullos, evidently the epo
nymous ancestor of the Hulleis, was the son of Herakles. In myth, Hulks
the Heraclid was the leader of the initial attempt of the Dorians to con
quer the Peloponnesus (cf. e.g. Herodotus 9.26.2-5). Hllos was the
adopted son of Aigimios, son of Dorost the eponymous ancestor of the
Dorians, while Aigimios had two sons of his own, Dumn and Pmphlos,
eponymous ancestors of the Dumnes and the Pmphloi (Ephorus FGH
70 F 15; cf. Strabo 9.4.10 C427 and Apollodorus 2.8.3). Of the three
eponymous ancestors, the second or warrior function of the non-Dorian
Hullos is evident from the theme of his military leadership: in referring
to the Dorian Conquest, which according to myth was successfully exe
cuted under the leadership of three great-grandsons of Hllos, the words
of Pindar describe the Dorian invaders as
. . . the Dorian Host of Hullos and Aigimios (Isthmian 9.2-3).
As for the three great-grandsons of Hullos, they became ancestors of the
three great royal houses of the Peloponnesus, the Dorian dynasties of

42 Already discussed at pp. 280-281 n30.


43 Benveniste 1969 2:90.
44 See further Benveniste 2:92-93.

284

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

Argos, Sparta, and Messenia (Apollodorus 2.8.4-5).45 Thus, for example,


King Leonidas of Sparta traced himself back to Herakles, twenty genera
tions removed (Herodotus 7.204).46
The genealogical association of Dorian royalty with the second phle,
the Hulleis, is comparable to the historically verifiable fact that the kings
of India generally came from the second varna-, the warrior class of the
ksairiya-47 The appropriation of kingship by the ksatriya-s is reflected
even in the Indie usage of the very word ksatnya to designate the second
or warrior function: of and by itself, the base-form ksatram dominion,
power seems to designate kingliness in general, not necessarily the
second function in particular 48 Moreover, the higher stratum within the
category of ksairiya- in Vedic diction is rjanya- (e.g. Rig-Veda 10.90.12 =
Atharva-Veda 19.6.6), where the derivation from rjan- king1 reveals most
clearly the appropriation of kingliness by the second function.
In light of such comparisons, it seems reasonable to infer that the
three-p/mlm organization of Dorian cities is a reflex of Indo-European
trifunctionalism.49 It seems also reasonable to explain the epithet
trikhikes, applied to Driees Dorians at Odyssey xix 177, as a combination
of an adverbial element meaning in three parts, *trikh (?),50 and a rad
ical element *ueik-/*uoik-, cognate with Indie nis-.51 In a fragment of
45 On which see Sergent 1977/1978.
46 So also King Leotychides of Sparta, at Herodotus 8.131.2. In light of the tradition
according to which Htillos was a Dorian only by adoption (as the adopted son of Aigimios
son of Doros), we may note the anecdote at Herodotus 5.70,3 about King Kleomenes of
Sparta: when he was barred from Athenas inner sanctum at the Athenian acropolis on the
grounds that he was a Dorian, he protested that he was not a Dries but rather an Akhaios.
On the semantics of self-identification by Greeks as Dorians and lonians, see Alty 1982; on
Herodotus 5.70.3, see Alty p. 13.
47 See Drekmeier 1962.81-85. Note, too, the evidence of Vedic diction: at Atharva-Veda
4.22.1, for example, the king is overtly described as a k s a tn y a -.
48 See the survey of passages by Gonda 1976.141. It does not follow, however, as Gonda
seems to think, that these passages disprove Benvenistes (1969 1:280) definition of the
k s a tn y a - as the man qui a le pouvoir guerrier (qui a le pouvoir de r j-) .** The point
remains that the derivative of k s a tr a m , k s a t H y a clearly designates the second function in
particular, and that this designation in turn particularizes the meaning of the base-form
k s a tr a m . Thus the attestations of an earlier, more general, meaning cannot vindicate
Gondas counterargument. Cf. Dumezil 1977.255.
49 So Dumezil 1941.254-257. The idea is retracted, however, in Dumezil 1953.25.
50 Cf. (= ?) at Herodotus 3.39.2; the context of this passage is pertinent.
51 See Benveniste 1969 1:310. In connection with this proposed etymology, 1 note the
claim by Roussel 1976.230 that Benveniste confuses the semantic subdivisions of
family /clan /tribe. This is to miss one of Benveniste* s main points, which is that the
diachronic perspective reveals shifts in meaning from category to subcategory or from sub
category to category. As for the morphology of tr ik h a tk e s , it is admittedly opaque, partly
because the phonology is opaque: Homeric and Hesiodic traditional diction guarantees
only the vowel quantities here, not the precise vowel qualities (in this case, *ycik- ? *yoik- ?

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

285

IrlL ^ s i o d . (233 MW), this same epithet of the Dorians is actually glossed by
tlrx p o e try as meaning having land divided into three parts. The territorial
f^ T rip licatio n s of the Indie root vis- to settle are compatible with such a
c o n s c r ip t io n of the Dorians. That their traditional tripartition into three
reflects territorial as well as political subdivision is also suggested
V>y t h e description of the settlement of the Dorian island of Rhodes in
X .\e H o m e ric Catalogue of Ships: the settlers trikhtha . . . oikethen kataphla were settled [root *uoik-] in three parts, phUle by phl (Iliad II
>68) .52 T he adverb trikhthd in three parts* tells us that each phUle is part
*>f a whole (cf. Iliad XV 189, on the three-way division of the universe
a m o n g the sons of Kronos) ,53
S u c h indications of the territorial aspect of subdivision into phulai
n e e d no t be taken to mean that a typical polis and its surrounding terri
t o r y were simply divided into a given number of sectors inhabited by a
c o rre sp o n d in g number of phlauM The example of Athens is instructive
52
Whether k a t a p k l a d o n reflects an underlying noun p h le or p h u b n is irrelevant to the
argument, since Homeric p h u lo n can be used in the sense of Classical p h le ( I l i a d 11 362, on
w h ich see further below).
5 3 1 interpret I lia d II 655 (in conjunction with 668) as saying that the whole island was
subdivided into three cities, Lindos, Ialysos, and Kameiros, and that this tripartition o f the
w h o l e i s l a n d was like a subdivision into three p h u l a i xvith in o n e city. The three cities are men
tioned explicitly as cities in Herodotus 1.144.3. The Homeric testimony should not be
misinterpreted to mean that each of these cities did not have its own p h la i.. On the avail
able epigraphical evidence for the existence of p h u l a i in each of the three Rhodian cities
and for the political principle of rotation-by-/>/mie, see Fraser 1953, esp. pp. 40-41nl; one
p h l e at Lindos is known as Argeia> which leads to his inference that the traditional Dorian
names of D u m n e s / H u l l e i s / P d m p h l o i became obsolete in Rhodes, possibly at an early stage
(cf. also the discussion in Roussel 1976.261). In the s u n o ik is m o s urban consolidation of
4 08/7, the three cities were united as the one city of Rhodes, apparently consisting of three
p h u l a i known as Lindia, Ialysia, and Kameiris (Latte 1941.996). Note that K a m m s is
attested as the name of a p h le in Hierapytna (DGE no. 200.1). For further discussion of
the subdivisions of Rhodes, see Momigliano 1936, esp. pp. 60-63. Momigliano points out
(p. 51) that the I lia d (11 658-657) assigns the three cities of Rhodes to a single leader,
Tlepolemos. (In this connection, note the report of Pherecydes FGH 3 F 80 that the
maternal grandfather of Tlepolemos was one P h u la r , cf. Robertson 1980.8.) Even before
the s u n o ik is m o s of 408/7, certain sacral institutions of one of the three cities, Lindos, are
known to have been shared by the other two (Momigliano p. 51); note, too, the report that
the text of Pindars O ly m p ia n 7, in honor of Diagoras of Ialysos, was inscribed in gold and
deposited at the temple of Athena at Lindos (scholia to Pindar O ly m p ia n 7.1 p. 195 Drachmann; cf. Momigliano p. 51). Finally, I should note that it may be productive to study
further the Rhodian institution of the k to in , which is obviously a territorial subdivision
(see Momigliano p. 59) and at the same time an aristocratic kinship subdivision (cf.
Hesychius s.v. k to in a v .
categories of inherited priesthoods or a subdivision of a district [ d e m o s ] ' ) . Note, too, the
morphological parallelism of Rhodian k to in e ta i (DGE no. 281, note to line 14) and Linear
B k o d o -n e-ta (Pylos Eb901.1).
54 Thus die Rhodian model of three cities seems in fact exceptional in its outward
simplicityhence perhaps the emphasis on the theme of the tripartition of Rhodes in the
I lia d . See again p. 285n53. As for the testimony of Socrates of Argos FGH 310 F 6 about a
locale within the city of Argos called the P a m p h u lia k o n , it is hard to determine whether this

286

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

here: after the reform of Kleisthenes (Herodotus 5.69.1-2; Aristode Con


stitution of the Athenians 21.2-6), the polis was subdivided into ten phlai,
each further subdivided into three trittes, each of which was further sub
divided into a number of demoi demes*. The mechanism for the terri
torial distribution of the phlai was not the number 10 of the phlai but
the number 3 of the subdivisions of the phlai, the tnttes: the territory
of Athens was subdivided into three categories, (A) urban, (B) coastal,
and (C) interior, and each of these categories of trittes was further sub
divided into subterritories assigned to the ten phlai.*55 In other words,
the ten phlai were separately distributed in each of the three areas A B
C.56 Thus the ten phlai were in effect territorial subdivisions of the A B
C categories of the tnttes, not of the one polis, while the A B C trittes
were political subdivisions of the ten phlai.
As for the political system of Athens before the reform of Kleisthenes,
there is a report that the polis had been politically subdivided into four
phlai, which were each subdivided into three trittes or phrtriai, which
were each subdivided into thirty gene lineages (Aristotle Constitution of
the Athenians, F 385 Rose).57 The earlier four phlai of Athens, the
Geleontes, the Aigikoreis, the Argadeis, and the Hoplites, were recognized as
cognate with the basic traditional four phlai of the Ionians (see Hero
dotus 5.66.2, 5.69.1).58 From the epigraphical evidence, we know that
most Ionian cities preserved these four phlai, usually along with added
phlai59 Moreover, as Benveniste has argued, the four basic Ionian
phlai can be explained as a reflex of the three Indo-European social
functions, with the third function differentiated into the two separate
functions of cultivators/herdsmen, on the one hand, and artisans, on
the other.60
Having just surveyed the basics of what little we are told about the pol
itical system of Athens before the reform of Kleisthenes, I raise the

locale is a city sector or just a place of assembly: see Worrle 1964.13. For possible evidence
adduced in favor of territorial subdivisions implied by pAti&ridivisions, see Szanto 1906
[1901].226. In this connection, 1 cite the interesting usage of the concept Zeus homcphulos
in Plato Laws 843a.
55 It is instructive to study a map that shows only the phlai and the tnttes of Attica, not
the demoi: sec Levequc and Vidal-Naquet 1964.15.
56 On the politics of this distribution, see I-eveque and Vidal-Naquet pp. 13-18.
s7 For an extensive commentary on this fragment, see Bourriot 1976.460-491. In discuss
ing the concept of phrdtrid, I shall use this form throughout, though there exist other by
forms: phratrd, phatm> etc.
58 The form Argadai in Herodotus corresponds to Argadeis elsewhere (e.g. Plutarch Solon
23.4).
59 For a survey of the situation in Miletus, Ephesus, Teos, and Samos, see Roussel
1976.209-220.
60 Benveniste 1969 1:289-291.

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

287

possibility, however tenuous, of an inherited territorial principle in the


distribution of phlai. True, what Kleisthenes had changed was not only
the naming and numbering of the phlai but also the actual constituency
of the phlai, in that the subdivisions of old trittues or phrtriai were
replaced by subdivisions of new trittues, further subdivided into territorial
entities called demoi. Aristotle says explicitly, it is also true, that
Kleisthenes did not reform the phrtriai or their constituencies, the gene
lineages' (Constitution of the Athenians 21.6), so that the phrtriai could
survive and in limited ways even cooperate with the demoi.61 Still, the fact
that the new trittues were territorial units does not necessarily mean that
the phrtriai, ousted from functioning as subdivisions of the phlai, had
been devoid of any territorial principle. The subdivisions of the polis
need not be conceived as marking differentiations exclusively in terms of
territory or exclusively in terms of kinship (in the broader, political sense
of the word). After all, the Athenian demoi, by virtue of being subdivi
sions of the new phlai, became functional determinants of actual ances
try.6263Moreover, the concept of tritts, equated with phrtri by Aristotle
in the fragment that we have been considering, suggests some kind of
territorially distributive mechanism: we may recall that the concept of
the new tritts, as established after Kleisthenes, served to distribute each
of the ten new phlai into three distinct territorial variations.
There still remain major problems, however, with the numbers
recorded in Aristodes report (Constitution of the Athenians, F 385 Rose) of
the old subdivision of Athens into four phlai, each further subdivided
into three trittues or phrtriai, each further subdivided into thirty gene.
The purported number of old trittues, twelve, seems far too low in com
parison with the number of new trittues after Kleisthenes, that is, thirty.
Perhaps a solution can be found if we do not assume that Aristodes
report applies to all of Athenian territory. The re p o rt begins by stating
that the populadon was subdivided into georgoi and demiourgot, and what
then follows in the text may be interpreted to mean that each of these
two subdivisions was further subdivided into four phlai, each further
subdivided into three old trittues or phrtriai. With this reckoning we
would have a total of twenty-four phrtriai as a territorial grid for the
even distribudon of p h l a i There may be a parallel situation in
61 Cf. Roussel 1976.139-151.
62 Cf. Roussel p. 5.
63 The emphasis on a numbering system in terms o f four phlai rather than in terms of
eight phlai could possibly be motivated by a desire for parallelism with the scheme of
twelve months consisting o f thirty days each, corresponding to twelve phrtriai consisting of
thirty gene each. This parallelism is in fact the point o f Aristotles discussion. Moreover, we
may still expect only four names for only four phlai, each further qualified as either gergoi
or demiourgqi. In any case, we would still be left with a territorial grid o f twenty-four rather
than twelve phrtriai All this is not to say that a scheme o f twelve subdivisions, as
emphasized by Aristode, could not have preceded a scheme o f twenty-four. We may recall

288

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

Corinth, where eight phlai seem to be further subdivided into three


units each, yielding a territorial grid of, again, twenty-four units.64 The
eight-phlat system of Corinth apparendy reflects the politics of the
dynasty of tyrants known as the Kypselidai,65 who promoted a clear del
ineation between countryside and city proper (Ephorus FGH 70 F 179;
Aristode Constitution of the Corinthians, F 516 Rose [cf. F 611.20]), and it
may be argued that the Corinthian eight-phlai system reflects a
countryside/city split of a modified Dorian fouT-phlai system.66 There is
a remote possibility that the system described by Aristotle as prevailing in
Athens before Kleisthenes can be attributed to the tyranny of the Peisistratidai: in this case, if my interpretation of the Aristotle fragment has
any merit, the basic Ionian four-phlat system was split along the lines of
georgoi in the countryside, demiourgot in the city proper.67
In any case, the principle of a twelve-part territorial division on the
basis of four phlai subdivided into three phrtriai each should be com
pared with what Herodotus has to say about the sacred confederation of
twelve Ionian cities in Asia Minor, modeled on an ancient twelve-part ter
ritorial division of the Ionians at a time when they were still supposedly
settled in the Peloponnesus (1.145: otheon). Among the cities of the
Ionian dodekapolis, a notable exception to the pattern of retaining the
the myth that tells how Kekrops, primaeval king of Athens, divided all the territory into
twelve upoleis" (Philochorus FGH 328 F 94). Aristotle's emphasis on the symbolic correla
tion of a twelve-part subdivision with the twelve months of the year should not be dismissed
as an idiosyncratic exercise in numerology: the twelve months are a conventional mythopoeic device for expressing the totality o f society and the equitable distribution of functions
among its members. Consider the adoption o f such a device by Solomon in I Kings 4.7fF,
where the number 12 is surely correlated with the pre-existing ideology of the twelve phlai
of Israel (e.g. Joshua 7.16-18; cf. W olf 1946a).
64 See Stroud 1968, esp. p. 241; Jones 1980b.l64-165 disagrees on the details of subdivi
sion.

65Jones pp. 187-193.


66 For the presence of the three basic Dorian phlai in the Corinthian daughter-cities of
Syracuse and Corcyra, see the bibliography cited by Jones 1980b. 187. Note, too, that
Aletes, the founding hero o f Corinth, who as we have seen was credited with dividing the
city into eight phlai (Suda 225 Adler s.v. pdnta okto), has two ancestors called Phulds: see
Robertson 1980.7. The younger ancestor is the paternal grandfather of Aletes, whereas the
older Phulds is not only the great-grandfather of the younger but also the grandfather of
Tlepolemos, the founding hero of Rhodes (on whom see p. 285n53). As a possible parallel
for the proposed split o f a ioui-phulai system at Corinth into an eight-^Aii&it system, we may
compare the early split of the three Roman tribs into six, where the old and the new three
members of the ensemble are distinguished simply by the tides for first" and second,"
that is, primi and secundi Titienses, Ramnes, Luceres (Festus 468.3 Lindsay); on this split
from three to six tribs in Rome, see Alfoldi 1974.63.
67 The tradition that insists on a three-way split among the eupatridai/ge&rgoi/demiaurgoi
(Plutarch Theseus 24-25) reflects political considerations that are different from those of
the Peisistratidai: cf. the discussion of Figueira 1984, who detects tendencies of political
polarization, fostered by the aristocracy, between georgoi and demiourgot.

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

289

four basic Ionian phlai was Ephesus: this city was subdivided into five
phlat, one of which was the Ephesets, which was further subdivided into
an unknown number of khiliastiles, among the six attested khiliastes are
the Geleimtes and Argadets, names of the old Ionian phlat.66 Significantly,
Herodotus (1.147.2) reports that Ephesus (along with Kolophon) was
exceptional among Ionian cities in that it did not celebrate the festival of
the Apatoria
Now the Ionian Apatoria, as we know from independent evidence,
was the occasion for the seasonal reunion of the phratriai.69 Thus the
absence of the Apatoria at Ephesus seems to be correlated with the
absence there of subdivision into phratriai. Conversely, when we con
sider the Apella, a Dorian institution analogous to the Ionian Apatoria,
we find that it, too, serves as the occasion for the seasonal reunion of the
phratriai.70 In archaic Sparta there were three groups of nine phratriai
(Demetrius of Skepsis, in Athenaeus 142e-f)presumably correspond
ing to the tripartition into three phlai?1 I would surmise, on the anal
ogy of the Athenian patterns, that the territorial distribution of the Spar
tan phlai and phratriai would be in groupings of D 1/H 1/P1, D2/
H2/P2, D 3/H 3/P3, . . . , not of D 1/D 2/D 3 . . . , H 1/H 2/H 3 . . . .
P1/P2/P 3 . .. (where D = Dumanes, H = HuUeis, P = Pamphuloi; and
where 12 3 . . . = the territorial order of the phratriai).
To sum up the discussion of the phratriai as they existed both before
and after the reform of Kleisthenes: I conclude that this social subdivi
sion is a matter of both kinship (in the broader, political sense of the
word) and territoriality. The Athenian elimination of phratriai as func
tional subdivisions of the polis reflects a movement away from a social
structure that would have tended to exclude newer inhabitants by plac
ing a stress on inherited kinship. The retention of the concept of phle
as the largest political subdivision of Athens is thus but a camouflage for
the fact that the kinship-related grouping of the phrtri has been
replaced by the territorial grouping of the tritts as the functional subdi
vision of the phle. If we follow this interpretation of Aristode, then it
may be that twenty-four old phratriai are replaced by thirty new trittes
and four old phlai (times two) are replaced by ten new ones. As Aristo
tle observes elsewhere (Politics 1319b23-27), the successful formula for689701
68 See Roussel 1976.211-212.
69 See Burken 1975.10.
70 Burken pp. 9-10.
71 Cf. Plutarch Lycurgus 6: in the text o f the Great Rhetra, the injunction about safeguard
ing the phlai is articulated in the context of prescribing the seasonal holding of apiUai.
See also Robertson 1980.17: at Cos as well, there were three phlai apparently subdivided
into nine phratriai each.

290

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

achieving democracy in a polis is to increase the number of phulai and


phririai, so that all people may be mixed with each other as much as
possible.
Aristotles remark about Hmixing implies that social structuring along
the lines of phulai and phrtriai is equivalent to the regulating of mar
riage along the lines of kinship. So also in the Constitution of the Atheni
ans, Aristotle says that Kleisthenes distributed the entire population of
the Athenians into ten new phulai in place of the old four because he
wanted to umixnthe population (21.2): the mixing led to greater participation in the polity, which Aristotle (ibid.) connects with the expression me
phlokrinein ( ) not to make distinctions according to
phle as it applies to those who wish to verify the pedigrees (gene) of
their fellow citizens. The injunction not to make distinctions according
to phle1applies not to the new phle of the social reform but to the old
phle that still reflects more faithfully the institutions of the tribe.72*In
fact, the notion to make distinctions according to phle' reveals some
thing basic about the inherited semantics of both phle and phlon. As
Nicole Loraux points out,7s the noun phlon race, kind conveys the dis
tinctiveness of one entity as opposed to another: thus, for example, the
phlon of gods is distinct from the phlon of men (Iliad V 441-442); the
emphasis is on closure of categories, on operationwhich is also why the
plural phla conveys the diversity of subcategories within a category.74
Both notions, distinctiveness and diversity, are evident in the Homeric
usage of phlon as a synonym (or better, as a diachronic equivalent) of
phle: in Iliad II 362, Agamemnon is advised to set up battle formations
by arranging the warriors kata phla according to phulai and kata
phretrds according to phrtriai,75 Moreover, the verb for arrange in this
passage is krinein, the same element that we find in the expression
phlokrinein; in other words, the act of arranging kata phla and kata
phretrds is itself an act of selection, setting apart, distinguishing.76 But
there is another side of distinctiveness here, and that is complementar
ity: again in the same context, we see that each distinct military unit can
then help the other (Iliad II 363)while all along they fight in their own
categories, kata spheas (II 366). Thus group solidarity is not at odds with

72 a . Day and Chambers 1962.112-114 and Bourriot 1976.496.


75 Loraux 1978.77n78.
74 See Loraux p. 54 on e.g. phla gunaikn at Semonides F 7.94 W.
75 For testimonia on military formations arranged according to phulai, see e.g. Jones
1980a.l97-198 on Herodotus 6.111.1; for details on military formations arranged accord
ing to phulai and phrtriai, see e.g. Robertson 1980.17 on Athenaeus 141e-f). Note, too, the
reference in Tyrtaeus F 19.8 W to the three Dorian phulai o f Sparta as they are deployed in
batde.
76 Note the nuances of phlokrinein in the context o f Thucydides 6.18.2.

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

291

the distinctiveness of subgroups. The semantics of categorization by


p h U m are reminiscent of the opposition marked/unmarked in
language: the p k iilo n is the marked member in an opposition with any
other member of a totality. So also with the kinship term p h lr . to make
distinctions about p h lt? is an exercise in maintaining categories of
markedness. If we turn for just a moment to consider an analogue in a
society that is otherwise very different from that of the Greeks, I am re
minded of how the Tonga reportedly describe to outsiders the function
of the main kinship subdivisions of their society: for them such a subdivi
sion is their flag."77 It is something given to them by divinity so that we
could marry properly."78
In the case of the Tonga, proper patterns of marriage are achieved by
the rule of exogamy among the kinship groups, which serves as a pri
mary mechanism for spinning the network of alliances between
groups.79 It seems fair to generalize, in fact, that the structure of any tri
bal society is shaped by its patterns of kinship grouping through ex
ogamy, endogamy, or some combination of the two. In the case of the
Greek polis, the evidence about patterns of marriage is insufficient, but
one thing seems obvious: the p h r tr id is by its very nature exogamous.8081
As for the p h u le , there is reason to think that there were constraints
against certain patterns of intermarriage among p h M a t,8] and we may
compare the detailed rules against certain patterns of intermarriage
among the v a r n a -s of India.82
77 Gluckman 1965.97.
78 Gluckman p. 97.
79 Gluckman p. 97. Cf. also p. 165 on the concept o f multiple and therefore divided loyalties.
80 In some cities, there is further differentiation, with the phrtrid further subdivided into
patriot (cf. Roussel 1976.156 and 217n9 on the situation in Miletus): in other cities, how
ever, the patrid seems to be the equivalent o f what is called phrtrid elsewhere (cf. Roussel
p. 154 on the situation in Thasos). As P.-Y. Jacopin points out to me, a narrower category
o f lineage (as in any existing opposition between a narrower category o f patria and a
broader category o f phrdtrid) would most probably exclude junior branches.
81 Cf. Gem et 1955.140n4; cf. also the semantics of phlokrinein, as noted above. For a
particularly valuable discussion o f this word, see Bourriot 1976.501-508. For a report on a
traditional interdiction o f intermarriage between two particular Attic demoi, see Plutarch
Theseus 13.2-3 and the helpful remarks of Gemet 1968.4445 about the possible patterns of
exogamy for males within a given demos and of endogamy for males within given groupings
o f demoi.
82 Essentially, women of a higher varna- may not be given in marriage to men of a lower
varna-, whereas women o f a lower varna- may indeed be given to men o f the next highest
varna-: see Kane 1941.19-104 and Tambiah 1973, following Dumont 1980; also Yalman
1960. Ironically, the traditional constraints against intermarriage between the varna-s pro
vided the ideological mechanism for integrating the emerging strata o f society into the
hierarchy o f the varna*: see Dumezil 1958.718-719 on Manu 10.46-50. They also provided
the ideological mechanism for keeping a wide variety o f differentiated strata at the bottom
o f the social pyramid: see Tambiah 1973. For example, the siita- class, who tend horses and
drive chariots, are the sons o f a union between a female of the brdhmana- class and a male
o f the ksatriya- class. Here the ideological point of view modvates and perpetuates the

292

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

In this connection, it is interesting to note that Herodotus refers to


the Aigeidai, a politically important lineage at Sparta, as a phle
(4.149.1) ,83848Swhereas Aristotle refers to them simply as a phrtri (Constitu
tion of the Laconians, F 532 Rose).84 Aristotle concerns himself mostly with
the lineages claim to Theban origins,85 whereas Herodotus is preoccu
pied with the lineages political role in the history of Sparta:86
significantly, tradition has it that the Aigeidai were connected by mar
riage to the royal line of the Herakleidai, in that Theras, an ancestor of
the Aigeidai, whose father had fled in exile from Thebes to Sparta, was
the maternal uncle of Eurysthenes and Prokles, the two Herakleidai who
became the ancestors of the two royal houses of Sparta (Herodotus
6.52.2).87 Now it so happens that lineages with royal connections or
ambitions tend to practice endogamy,88 as is clearly the case with the
Bakkhiadai of Corinth (Herodotus 5.92).89 Thus the reference by Hero
dotus to the Aigeidai as a phle at Sparta (again, 4.149.1) may perhaps
reflect the endogamous tendencies of this lineage.90
Many uncertainties remain, and much further work is required on the
problem of kinship patterns in ancient Greek society.91 But at least this
much seems to me certain: the Greek polis grew out of tribal institutions
genealogical point o f view. In other words, it is not that the emergence o f a type o f halfbreed led to the conceptualization of a new social class: rather, the emergence o f new
social functions led to the conceptualization o f various categories o f half-breeds as per
mutations of the old social functions. On the -as a court poet, see Dillon 1975.54-55.
83 Cf. the scholia to Pindar Isthmian 7.18a Drachmann.
84 The Aristotle reference is in the scholia to Pindar Isthmian 7.18c.
85 The Aigeidai o f Sparta traced themselves, by way of their ancestor Aigeus (Herodotus
4.149.1), all the way back to Polyneikes, son of Oedipus (4.147.1-2). That the Aigeidai of
Sparta originate from Thebes is proudly proclaimed in the words of Pindar Isthmian
7.14-15. There is an argument to be made that Pindar himself was a descendant o f the ori
ginal Theban branch o f the Aigeidai: see Famell 1932.178-179 and Hubbard 1985.12983.
86 On the restructuring o f the family tree o f the Aigeidai in the context o f Spartan politi
ca] history, see Vian 1963.219. According to Timagoras FGH 381 F 3, the Spartoi who fled
from Thebes to Sparta (and these Spartoi were the Aigeidai: Vian p. 223) actually gave
their name to Sparta. Aside from the Herodotean mention of the Aigeidai as a phle at
Sparta, this polis is known for its three standard Dorian phlai o f Dymanes, Hylleis, and
Pamphyloi (e.g. Tyrtaeus F 19.8 W ). In the account of a famous battle in the series of cam
paigns known as the Messenian Wars, Pausanias 4.7.8, there is a description o f the batde
line o f the Spartans, where the left and the right wings are each commanded by one o f the
two Spartan kings, while the center is reserved for a descendant o f the Aigeidai (4.7.8).
87 See further Vian p. 218n4. Note, too, Vians discussion of the Theban connections of
Dorieus (p. 225).
a . Gemet 1968 [1953].349-350.
89 For Herodotus, endogamy on the level o f lineage is a variation on the theme o f incest,
which in turn is correlated with the theme of the hubris of tyrants: see Vemant 1982.
90 The early political power o f the Aigeidai is formalized in the elliptic naming o f Sparta
after them, as reported by Timagoras (see n86 above).
91 Facts and theories useful for comparison may be found e.g. in Brough 1953 on the

Mythical Foundations of Greek Society

293

that reflect, albeit from a distance, an Indo-European heritage. The pas


sage from tribe to polis, as is the case with any structure viewed through
time, is a process where some aspects of the older phases of the structure
fit in with those of the newer phases while other aspects are out of jo in t
We may not assume that difficulties of transition prove the lack of a his
torical connection between older and newer phases, any more than we
may assume that instances of smooth transition prove the sameness of
older and newer phases.
gotra- as an cxogamous grouping o f the bmhmano-e and on the pravara-, a pattern o f listing
sequences o f remote ancestors that serves as a test for maintaining exogamy. Note that a
ksatriya- is allowed to assume the gotra- o f his purohita-: hence the application o f the brahmanical grtro-title Gautama to the Buddha, who was actually from a ksotriya- family (Brough
p. 5nS). On the semantics o f gotra-, see Lincoln 1975. Note, too, the interesting comments
o f Held 1935.96-97 on a five-generation framework (including the generation o f the ego)
for sqptndo-relationships; cf. the symbolism of the number 5 in the Hesiodic myth of the
five generations o f mankind (on which see N 1979a. 168-172).

CHAPTER 13

Unattainable Wishes: The Restricted


Range of an Idiom in Epic Diction

et

* ,

Iliad VIII 538-541
If only 1were
immortal and unaging for all days to come.
and if only I were honored just as Athena and Apollo are honored,
as surely as this day brings misfortune to the Argives

There have been problems with understanding the meaning of this


passage, which features an extraordinary wish on the part of the speaker,
the hero Hektor. At the root of these problems, I suspect, is an uneasi
ness on the part of many readers about the values underlying this wish,
values that seem to disturb our own received notions of the Hellenic
ideal as conveyed by epic.
The same problems recur in Iliad XIII 825-828, where Hektor
expresses the same wish; verses 827-828 are identical with VIII 540-541,
but the first two verses are slightly different:

, "
Iliad XIII 825-826
If only I were the child of aegis-bearing Zeus
for all days to come, and the Lady Hera were my mother

294

Unattainable Wishes

295

The translations 1 offer here, based roughly on the rendition of Homer


by Richmond Lattimore,1 have been taken from a chapter I have written
on the death of Hektor, where I adduce these two passages in arguing
that the heros hybristic wish to be a god draws him into a force field of
antagonism with the gods, notably Athena.2 In the view of F. M. Combellack, however, I and many others have misunderstood these passages.3
He claims that though what Hector says in these passages is grammati
cally a wish he does not express here any desire to be immortal or to be
the child of Zeus.4
In making this claim, Combellack attempts to define an idiom that is
at work here, citing a formulation found in Walter Leaf s comments on
these passages: a form of wish, where a thing is vividly depicted as cer
tain by opposing it to an imaginary event which is obviously impossible.5
What Hektor is really saying, Combellack insists, is I wish I were as sure
of immortality (or of being the son of Zeus) as I am that this day brings
evil to the Greeks.6 The author continues:7
If I say, I wish 1 were as certain of being elected President as I am that my
taxes will go up this year, my sentence is grammatically a wish, but no one
would imagine for a moment that I am expressing a desire to become
President. I am using an idiom to emphasize my certainty that my taxes
will go up. And Hector is merely emphasizing his certainty that evil is in
store for the Greeks.

There is a serious flaw, however, in Combellacks reasoning here. He


is assuming that the perspective of Hektor is the same as the perspective
of the reader of Homer. What is an absurdity for the readeror, to put
it more rigorously, for the intended audience of Homeric poetryis
assumed to be an absurdity for the character who is speaking. This is to
overlook a central feature in the composition of Homeric speeches,
where a given characters perception of reality is frequently at odds with
the reality that emerges from the overall narrativethat is, with the per
ception of reality by the intended audience of Homeric poetry. We shall
explore some examples below, but it will suffice for the moment to cite a
book on Homeric speeches that is well worth reading in this regard.8
1 Lattimore 1951,1965.
2 N 1979a.42-50. See also p. 204nl0 above.
* Combellack 1981.
4 Combellack p. 116.
5 Leaf 1900 1:368.
6 Combellack p. 116.
7 Combellack p. 116.
8 Lohmann 1970.

296

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

A more serious flaw in Combellacks reasoning is that he has not


examined exhaustively the Homeric parallels to the idiom that he has
isolated in the two speeches of Hektor. Taking his examples from Leafs
incomplete list of Homeric passages where the same idiom occurs, he
cites the following as formally the closest parallel:

, ,

Iliad XVIII464-66
If only I could have the power to hide him from sorrowful death,
when his dreadful fate comes upon him
as surely as there will be fine armor for him!

Hephaistos is here wishing for something that seems at the moment


impossible, and the wish is linked by the adverb so with the con
junction as introducing an absolute certainty,9 that Achilles will have
fine armor. In other words, the impossibility of the wish (that Achilles
be saved from death) is supposedly correlated with the certainty of the
premise (that Achilles will have fine armor). The (+ optative) of
the wish and the ... that links it with the premise are parallel to
the (+ optative) of Hektors wish to be an immortal (VIII 538 and
XIII 825) and the /. . . that links his wish with his premise that
disaster will surely befall the Achaeans (VIII538-541 and XIII 825-828).
What has eluded Combellack, however, is that this same idiom can
occur in situations where the wish introduced by or the variants at
and is clearly not perceived as impossible by the speaker. For
example, the disguised Odysseus has this to say to Eumaios:
, , Aii
,

Odyssey xiv 440-441


If only, Eumaios, you would be dear to Zeus the Father
as surely as you are dear to me, since you grace me, such as I am, with
good things.

9
In this presentation I will for the sake o f convenience render Creek so . . . as con
structions consistently in the mode of * . . . so as . . (poorCombellack 1981. 119).

Unattainable Wishes

297

9 , ,
,
Odyssey 341-342

If only, Eumaios, you would be dear to Zeus the Father


as surely as you are dear to me, since you stopped my wandering and my
dreadful sorrow.

Clearly, it is not impossible that Eumaios should be dear to Zeus. The


implication seems to be that he probably is, and this probability is reinforced by the certainty of Odysseus premise: that Eumaios is dear to
Odysseus. In this connection, we may observe what Priam says ironically
about Achilles: If only he
would be dear to the gods as much as he is to me! (Iliad XXII 41-42).
The idiom under consideration is frequendy found in prayers, as
when Telemachus exclaims:
, ,

, ,
, ,


Odyssey xviii 235-240

Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo, if only


in our house the suitors could be defeated
and bow their heads, some in the courtyard
and some inside the house, and the limbs be unstrung in each of them
as surely as that Iros there is sitting at the courtyard gates,
bowing his head

Clearly, someone who prays is not contrasting the impossibility of his


wish with the certainty of a situation (as Combellacks concept of the
idiom would require); rather, he is appealing to this certainty as grounds
for hope that the wish be fulfilled.
At times the premise for the wish is the immediate context itself, to
which the speaker can refer with but one word, such as so = just
as surely as what has happened in this context. Thus when the suitor
Antinoos strikes the disguised Odysseus, Penelope responds to this
outrage by saying: ' If
only Apollo, famed for his bow, would strike you just as surely [as
you struck Odysseus]! (Odyssey xvii 494). Penelopes prayer is then

298

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

seconded by Eurynome: If
only our prayers would be accomplished! (xvii 496). The expression
our prayers here refers to those of Penelope and Eurynome combined,
as formalized in these two one-line versions of the idiom under study.
Again, the idiom is being used to express a wish that is intended as possi
ble, not impossible.
In one instance, a speaker uses a curtailed form of the idiom and then
overtly says that his wish is impossibleonly to be corrected by another
speaker who uses a full form. Telemachus wishes that the gods could
give him the diinamis power to kill the suitors ( ^
Odyssey iii 205); then, instead of giving a premise
as grounds of hope, he gives up hope by claiming that the gods have
granted such a power neither to him nor to his father (208-209). At this
point Nestor responds by resorting to a full form of the idiom:



Odyssey iii

218-220

If only glaukopis Athena would deign to love you


as surely as in those days she cared for glorious Odysseus
in the Trojan country

This time there is indeed a premise, there is reason to hope: if Athena


does love you this much, Nestor is telling Telemachus, then the suitors
will indeed be killed (223-224).
By building on something that is perceived as certain in order to wish
for something that is less certain, it is also possible to extend a specific
observation into a general one. One of the suitors, for example, makes
the following ironic remark about the disguised Odysseus as the hero
prepares to string the bow:


Odyssey xxi 402-403

If only this person would find much profit


as surely as he will have the power to string this.

The words are meant ironically, but the real irony is at the expense of
the speaker. He wishes general failure for the stranger on the basis of
what he expects to be the strangers specific failure in not being able to

Unattainable Wishes

299

string the bow. Instead, Odysseus will achieve a specific success with the
bow and general success against the suitors. For another example, I cite
what Agamemnon imagines a Trojan would say ironically, if Menelaos
were killed:
,

Iliad V 178-79
If only Agamemnon could bring his anger to bear against all his enemies
as surely as he has led here in vain a host of Achaeans.

In this imaginary situation the Trojan is entertaining the possibility of


general failure for Agamemnon on the basis of one specific failure.
There are times when the hyperbole achieved with this idiom reaches
the point of hybris. Such seems to be the case with the words spoken by
Odysseus to the Cyclops after the hero has blinded the monster. If only
I could kill you, says Odysseus to Cyclops, as surely as your father
Poseidon will not restore your eyesight (Odyssey ix 523-525)! The hybristic reality of blinding the son of a god who is antagonistic to the hero is
the basis for the even more hybristic wish of actually killing him. Simi
larly, in the first two passages that we have considered, Hektor can actu
ally entertain the possibility of becoming a god himself on the basis of
his certainty that he is about to destroy the Achaean expedition. The
first time that Hektor uses the idiom under study, he is expressing his
certainty that, come next morning, he will defeat the Achaeans, most
notably Diomedes (Iliad VIII 526-538); the second time, he is expressing
the same certainty, although the focus of his attention has now shifted
from Diomedes to Ajax (XIII 829-832). Of course, the perceived reality
of Hektors premise is at odds with the reality of the narrative: Hektor
will not succeed in killing Diomedes or Ajax, nor for that matter will he
succeed in repelling the Achaeans from Troy. Therefore, his hybristic
wish to be a god is built on a premise of self-delusion, and its wording
becomes an extended exercise in self-delusion. Since H ektor is speak
ing, we have no right to impose the reality of the narrative on Hektors
perception of reality: for him the wish to be a god is not contrary to fact,
and it would be better for us to abandon the decidedly contrary-to-fact
translations uIf only I were immortal. . . and If only I were the child of
aegis-bearing Zeus . . . for VIII 538 and XIII 825, substituting something
more neutral: If only I could be immortal . . . and If only I could be
the child of aegis-bearing Zeus.. . .
There is a similar though far less grandiose exercise in self-delusion
on the part of the evil goatherd Melanthios: if only Apollo or one of the

300

The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology

suitors could kill Telemachus, says he, as surely as Odysseus has perished
at sea (Odyssey xvii 251-253)! The interpretation of Combellack loses
sight of the hybristic amplification evident in the wish of the goatherd:
wish I were as certain that Apollo or the suitors would kill Telemachus
today as I am that Odysseus day of return has been lost afar.10 I see no
evidence to suggest that Melanthios is supposed to perceive the killing of
Telemachus as an impossibility.
At times the premise of our idiom is deliberately falsified by the narra
tive. For example, when the god Apollo assumes the human identity of
Hektors maternal uncle, he goads the hero into valor with these words:
* , If only I could be superior
to youas surely as I am that much inferior to you! (Iliad XVI 722).
Apollo goes on to say, in the guise of the uncle: if you were that much
inferior, then you would retreat in battle (723). But, since Hektor is sup
posedly that much superior, he is of course expected not to retreat
What is hidden in these comparisons, however, is the relative stature of
the god himself: the uncle is to Hektor as Hektor is to Apollo.11 From
the standpoint of Hektor, the premise in Apollos use of the idiom is
reality: the uncle is inferior to Hektor. From the standpoint of Apollo
and the narrative, however, the premise is false: Apollo is superior, not
inferior, to Hektor. Therefore the wish that is based on the premise is
augmented: the that much of let me be that much superior to you" is
immeasurably more than Hektor might think.
By now I have discussed, besides those Homeric examples I have
found myself, every example adduced by Combellackexcept one. As
Hektor lies mortally wounded, Achilles expresses a ghastly wish, though
in attenuated terms: if only, says he, my menas power and thumos
spirit12 could impel me to eat your flesh raw (Iliad XXII 346-348)! The
premise upon which this wish is founded is almost as hybristic as the wish
itself: as surely as it is impossible for your corpse to be rescued from the
dogs and to be ransomed by Priam himself (348-354). Yet this impossi
bility" is precisely what comes to pass in the course of Iliad XXIV.13 The
eventual relinquishing of Achilles premise is a function of the heros
eventual rehumanization as the narrative moves from Iliad XXII to
XXIV: it is up to Achilles to release the corpse. But at the moment that
he utters the premise, expressing his determination to leave Hektors
10 Combellack p. 118.
11 For this and other uses of such a proportional equation in archaic Greek poetry, see
lx>hmann 1970.189n6.
12 On the association of these words as they apply to Achilles, see N 1979a.136-137.
13 On this correspondence between lUad XXII and XXIV. see Lohmann 1970.161n6,279,
280nl8.

Unattainable Wishes

301

body exposed to the dogs and to refuse any ransom offered by Priam,
the ghasdy wish about cannibalism is as real as the almost as ghastly
premise upon which it is founded. Achilles means what he wishes. It
makes no sense to claim that he mentions the cannibalism as the most
impossible thing he can think of in order to emphasize the certainty of
the dogs tearing Hektors body.14This is no time for Achilles to be reas
suring Hektor of a sort of modified bestiality, that he will go only so far
as to expose Hektors corpse to dogs but not so far as to eat it himself.
Rather, the beastly wish is an amplification of an already beastly premise.
I come to the last example in my survey, a passage where Agamemnon
has these words to say to Nestor:
, \ evi < ,
tot ,
R iad

IV 313-314

Aged sir, if only your knees could keep up with the pace
and your strength could remain steadfastas surely as the spirit within you
is steadfast!

The speaker is not telling the old man that it is impossible for him to
keep up. Rather, he is paying tribute to an extraordinary mans extraor
dinary spirit by amplifying his admiration with a wish.15
For me this idiom, especially in the last example, serves as a metaphor
for the Hellenization of Indo-European social ideology. If we may
equate Hellenism with the ideal, the wish-fulfillment of human progress,
then the Indo-European heritage of the Greek language, as an incom
plete reflection of the past and the here-and-now, is a premise for that
fulfillment.
Combetlack 1981.117.
l5ln the original version, I had added: T h e same tribute is due to Sterling Dow, an
extraordinary man of our own time."

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